Last week I talked to the Croatian Public Relations Association. There's a pdf of my slides on their site but I am not sure how helpful they are to anyone who wasn't there. Instead, here's a loose and rough account of what I said, a sort of rolling prompt that I used as an iPad comfort blanket.
Hopefully it gives an idea of how I justify the claim at the top of this post.
Today ALL PR is online PR
I want to start with a few questions… Here’s an easy one – What is PR? I am not going to give an explanation, I am going to show you an object.
My iPhone. This is PR.
Never before have we been able to hold up one object and say "This is PR".
Now I can find out all I want to know about the world, I can tell other people what I know and think. I can see and hear what they – you – think, individually or in groups.
I can use it to manage my relationships with the people and the organisations that matter to me…. and other people (you!)… can use it to find out about me – my reputation – and shape our relationship
Another question: How many people here have used the internet? How many have mobile phones that can do so?
Of course, I could have framed the question the other way round? How many of you haven’t ? If I had asked in UK the answer would have been 9million (notice there are twice as many non-sers in the UK as there people living in Croatia pop 4.5m). The latest stats I could find suggest about half the population of Croatia uses the internet…
…. so at least half don't….
Which is an odd way of starting a presentation that argues that Today all PR is online!
You could interpret the intention behind my question as being to, in effect, cut this audience in two – I’ll talk to you on the left and ignore you on the right.
I am not arguing that online is the ONLY way to reach stakeholders… it isn’t
But am arguing that online is part of all PR
It is no longer a subdiscipline of PR – it is part of the very fabric of all PR activity.
PR is about reputation management – oganisations have to be aware of their online reputation because in many cases that will be the most visible.
The argument operates on two levels: Search and Visibility – what people find out about you and how easy it is to find that information. Crucially, visibility may have very little to do with intentional communicative activity on behalf of the organisation.
But there is a more fundamental argument, too. PR is about Relationship Management, the interaction between organisation and stakeholders/audience. Increasingly that relationship is shaped in an environment where the relationships between stakeholders have become heightened to an unprecedented degree. At micro and macro level time and geography have disappeared.
The complexity of relationship has mulitiplied
We have real friends, Facebook friends, Twitter follower etc. Casual visitors, readers etc. But the shift has been in the visibility, the connectivity of those relationships. We can see the connections, we can aggregate them in what we can call reputation. Simplest form is do a Google search = lots of results!
(Remember, people have always spent more time talking to their friends and colleagues than they have ‘engaging’ in dialogue with brands, ideologies, organisations).
And many of the results lead to content not created by the organisation visitors were searching for. Last week Wendy Clark, senior-VP integrated marketing communications and capabilities at Coca-Cola was quoted in AdAge as saying it was a revelation to discover that of the 150 million views the brand has amassed on YouTube, only 25 million to 30 million of those views could be attributed to content Coca-Cola had put into the marketplace.
The surprise is that they were surprised.
They should appreciate that the vector of communication has changed from organisation to public
It is now people to people. That was one of the key arguments of Online Public Relations 2ed. We hope it led to important theoretical and practical chapters, but my argument today is that books like OPR2ed is becoming redundant.
Yes the tactics need to be understood, ande theoretical insights need to be incorporated into core theory… but this is more than absorption.
To some extent this is recognised by the Global Alliance Stockholm Accords, which state:
Public relations and communication management professionals:
• Apply social networking, research skills and tools to interpret stakeholders’ and society’s expectations as a basis for decisions.
Our very understanding of what it is to understand PR has moved forward.