Monday, May 04, 2009

'Online Public Relations' re-visited

With Philip Young I have re-written Online Public Relations. The copies arrived this week and so I have been re-reading it in its published form.

First of all, the thank yous.

Notably Philip. There are some flashes of writing style which he has been able to inject into my dull prose which, in a book, is significant and, of course, he is far to modest about his contribution. He has insight which is a great help when trying to go through the strategic significance of the internet to PR.

Anne Gregory, the series editor has been very flattering too and that is good for the ego. She says in her foreword that the book provides some 'clear pointers for organizing (I hate the modern use of 'z') public relations professionally now and indicates a vision of the future', which is what we aimed for.

But, as I have re-read through the pages, one thought keeps coming back. It is a work built on the expertise of so many excellent minds. In the ten years from the first edition to this one, the body of theoretical, academic and practical knowledge available is now huge. For this work which is about how to use the internet intelligently and effectively to draw on its potent and energising characteristics, we have plundered a wide range of sources.

Of course the work and insights of people like Neville, Shel, Richard (his bibliography is a brilliant aid for practitioner and academic alike) and Toni stand out in their writings (books, blogs, papers) and the thinking of David Weinberger, Don Tapscott, Clay Shirky, William Dutton and a the hundreds of other contributors refenced in the book are very significant.

Ours is less a book about mechanics or the application of communication tools and so other significant authors like Joel Comm's 'Twitter Power' (among many) are of immense value and publication coincides with the launch of Rob Brown's Book "Public Relations and the Social Web: How to Use Social Media and Web 2.0 in Communications" which is a great complementary, not to mention timely, contribution. Rob's book examines public relations practices in the digital environment and shows readers how digital public relations campaigns can include communication channels such as blogs, wikis, RSS, social networking and SEO, and the Social Web, taking up from the short introduction Philip and I make to these communication channels in the second chapter.

One thing that was a bold move was to predict (Chapter 28) where the internet will go in its effects on future practice. Coming 20 years after the World Wide Web was introduced (some years after I got involved with the internet - it makes me wince to recall) we are pretty sure that the involvement of tens of millions of people in its evolution will both accelerate development and become more integrated in human interaction.

The reasons are simple. Thousands of new forms of interaction are presented to people every year (month?). Some take off and others whither away. This is digital/human interaction and evolution on steroids and the arbiters of what will succeed and fail is in the hands of a billion digital consumers and the people they influence.

The combination of Open Source (in its many manifestations) and Open Systems (corporations making their knowledge and capabilities available publicly like Yahoo! and very recently Google with its Analytics Data Export API not to mention the concept in use by the arts), offers to a massed development community access for developing new products, services and interactivity which will manifest itself in startling new ways (to get some idea of scale, the Yahoo open systems are accessed by developers numbering hundreds of thousands of people).

In PR we can expect the rate of change to get faster (who could have imagined we would add content about a book in Facebook ten years ago!).

At the same time practitioners will need new management capabilities and I am particularly pleased we included a chapter on risk management (Ch. 21). I think it is the first time risk management has been included in a PR text.

Of course, in a book for PR practitioners, a lot of great work can only be referenced and some of our further thinking had to be missed out (we are well over the word count as it is).

We aim to persuade Kogan Page to publish the book in its entirety online using a facility they have developed for this kind of thing. Its work in progress. We can then associated it with a web presence for the book that can expand the thinking add further bibliographical content (like Joel and Rob's books) and much more.

Of course that does not prevent making comments here or even on Twitter!