I am writing this post in english as an hommage to what I believe is the Public Relations Book of the year: Online Public Relations: A practical guide to developing an online strategy in the world of social media (Second Edition) by David Phillips and Philip Young.
I have read many great Web 2.0 and PR books this year. My favourites include the popular Putting the Public Back in Public Relations by Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis and of course Shel Holtz' and John C. Havens' wonderful Tactical Transparency.
But Phillips and Young's Online Public Relations is, in my point of view, the most accomplished and pedagogical. A must for anyone working in or studying PR today.
Although the stamp and foresight of UK' s CIPR is evident (Phillips was one of the authors of The Death of Spin ? IPR, April 2000) Online Public Relations goes much deeper into the implications of porosity, agency and transparency.
In today's world of search engines and consumer-generated-content, internet mediated PR demands a dramatically different approach at the level of strategy because the difference is not so much in tools of communication but in their connectivity.
Social media is changing the dynamics of the conversations that shape relationships and that allow businesses to grow. Whatever the need for labels such as PR 2.0 or "the new PR", public relations must be considered as a strategic function concerned with relationship management and optimization.
The rapid growth, as well as the continuing evolution of social media, shift the vector of communication from a vertical broadcasting model to a horizontal discourse among networked commentaries that aggregate into reputation. In this perspective, it will also be the actions of organizations that matter most and not the "desired messages". For instance, if one looks at CSR, it is quite clear that the reach and influence of social media allow stakeholder groups to impact on activities and performance.
The authors also note that social media voices need identity if they are to be considered authentic. These voices need to be linked to a named individual rather than an anonymous communicator or the "invisible hand" that was once an indication of professionalism. Online, relationships are built through the expression of individual values, and these values gain power through the cement of trust, and trust is, as always the "holy grail" for all practionners. An organization that can build this kind of trust will have a powerful influence on reputation and consequently on performance. Today's practionner may well not only become a trust agent, as Chris Brogan and Julien Smith would put it, but also eventually an agent of change.
In order to earn trust, practionners need to understand the geography of social media, the nature of Internet society, its new models of information exchange, its commercial implications and especially the people's use of the internet as media: platforms, channels, and context. All these elements, issues, and more, are addressed by the authors in specific chapters.
Unfortunately, many if not most organizations do not have a corporate internet strategy all the while social media is changing the nature of economics, politics and culture. Because the internet is so significant in communications and in relationship mediation, the authors make a strong case to stress that this change is a PR issue from top to bottom.
From management approaches to planning (landscaping) to discussing ethics in a transparent world and developping PR strategies and tactics, Online Public Relations is a must read for students and professionals alike.
Thanks for reading.
Patrice Leroux, APR