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1-Page Summary of Public Relations

Reinventing Public Relations

Public relations is in trouble. Many people believe it cannot produce measurable results, or that it relies on spinning facts and manipulating reporters. It was created by Edward Bernays and Ivy Lee early in the 20th century, but businesses have always seen PR as just an extension of management. Corporations generally turn to PR to shape public opinion, and create interest and understanding about their products or services; however, they often use it for manipulative purposes instead of for informing or influencing the marketplaces. For example, during the Internet bubble of 2000-2001 when many dot-com companies with no viable business plans were touting themselves through PR efforts (and some even went bankrupt), public relations professionals were involved in inflating the bubble rather than helping consumers make informed decisions about buying stocks from those companies.

Social media is a new, online community of people who interact with each other and share information. It has changed the way that companies connect to their customers by giving them more direct ways to communicate. Although it’s still early, social media has already had an impact on PR (Public Relations) strategies as well as corporate communications. Companies can no longer control what people say about them because conversations are happening all the time now. They must realize that they can benefit from participating in these conversations rather than ignoring or discouraging them.

In 2004, a conference was held for online technology innovators. As people shared ideas and created new Web communities, the potential of practicing PR through social media emerged. In this environment, PR professionals must understand what brings people to online communities and then engage customers there with new ideas and viewpoints. However, they should not enter these communities to sell goods because that’s not how you maintain relationships in an online community; it’s based on building meaningful conversations instead of hype. Instead of using hype when communicating messages, encourage advocates who use your products to promote them as they participate in these online communities.

Participants in social media need to be active and well-informed. They should listen, read about, and observe the communities they want to reach before participating actively. One needs to learn the community’s etiquette, credibility, and sophistication before joining it.

Sociology, the study of groups and social institutions, teaches that people form associations and relationships based on shared beliefs or allegiances to particular objects, ideas, products or services. This means you can create bonds through conversational marketing – participating in online conversations as a form of outreach and providing material for an online community to discuss. PR 2.0 professionals can influence this new channel directly by providing content for communities to share with one another. Given the Web’s unprecedented interactivity (the ability to engage in two-way communication), traditional PR is no longer effective because it is essentially a monologue where only one person speaks at a time.

In PR 2.0, we focus on talking to people who share our interests and advocate for us online by sharing information with each other. The net effect of empowered individuals forming communities online is revolutionary—it’s like an industrial revolution on a global scale. This digital revolution has the power to change many elements of public relations, from brand development to customer loyalty.

Public Relations Book Summary, by Katie Heaney, Arianna Rebolini