Wednesday, January 05, 2011

For good financial reasons, who will get stuck in for the sake of future PR

It is the time of predictions and finding out how good we were last year. Most predictions are not much more than fun but there is good reason for more serious analysis of trends that lead to effective insights.

It is these insights, when they are accurate,  that provide the basis for confidence and investment in the future of organisations, and economic sectors.

I am not shy about forward predictions and the brickbats that come when I get it wrong. Equally, I get very frustrated by peers whose view of the future is too short term, narrow or based on ill considered facts.

Being critical of the PR industry's lack of performance over the last 15 years is not based on 20:20 hindsight but on a combination of professional institutions, academic and industry failure to appreciate predictions made, for example, 15 years ago and empirical often self/shoe-string funded research (like this) which demonstrate modern capabilities that can allow the PR industry to fulfil predictable potential. 

The key here is in knowing how good we are at predicting the potential. I had a go at looking ahead 20 years in 1995 and here is my, verbatim, contribution:

‘The new media will enfranchise the individual with more one-to-one, one to many and many to many communication which will be easy by personal ‘phones, E-mail and video conferencing.

'Person-to-person-to-machine and database communication will be more important, electronically managed and more global. Increasingly this broth threatens brands and corporate reputation and needs professionalism to immunise (our organisations) or doctor the effects of the brew.

‘In its most perfect form, reputation management sustains relationships with publics in a state of equilibrium during both evolution and in crisis. This enhances corporate goodwill (a tradable asset).

‘The big change is that many-to-many global communication brings with it loss of ‘ownership’ of language, culture and knowledge and that there is a breakdown in intellectual property rights, copyright and much plagiarism. This is already a major problem.

‘News now travels further and faster and is mixed with history, fantasy and technology. Reputation in crisis is even more vulnerable. At a growing rate, the new media uses reputation as ‘merchandise’, stripped from the foundations which created it, then traded for pieces of silver - and at a discount’. ...

(David Phillips CIPR symposium in 1995)

A decade ago, some contributors dealt with what seem to be modern issues such as crisis management mediated by social media. Here is Alison Clark's 2001 contribution:

Corporate reputation managers need to put new systems in place to permit timely and appropriate response to the increased level of comment on significant issues that the Internet enables. Collecting the commentary is a preliminary step only. Most of public commentary is on the World Wide Web or in usenet. The originator?s choice of medium is revealing of their objectives and motivations. The management response may be pre-emptive or consequential, but essentially it is limited to six options, which may be supported by protocols prepared for timely response. 
Perhaps the time has come to do more research and backfill some of the old prediction with new research to show the provenance and reasons for the industry to invest in its own future.

I shall start at the EUPRERA Spring Symposium 2011 with some new thoughts. It will be interesting to see which practitioners, consultants and universities can look beyond 'online' to identify whether Public Relations is adapting, evolving or failing.

The real question here is to seek evidence of  contributions by practitioners, consultants and universities. 

Is it Dell, Robert Phillips, or a university leading the charge? Will they provide insights to guide this under performing industry.