Lessons from the Edelman New Media Conference: Here’s what mattered to me

Left Manhattan around 5 p.m. Friday wondering when I’d find time to compile highlights of the Edelman New Media Academic Summit. Then my 8:30 p.m. flight to Akron was cancelled, stranding me at LaGuardia long after every hotel and rental car had been snagged. So instead of heading home, I snagged a couple of lattes, a power source and — voila, this post emerged from my all-nighter.

Rather than publish a caffeine-charged message on Saturday morning, I waited for a clear head and time to edit. Just can’t help but think that my unkind words about Yankee fans and the Big Apple had something to do with the flight cancellation. But, nah. If there is a God in heaven, he can’t possibly be a Yankee fan.

So let me get back on message.

The Edelman folks packed Friday’s program with great content and big names from the PR and social media worlds. I won’t list them here, since Edelman has done so on the left-hand column of its website. I will offer some stuff I found interesting and that I hope you find useful. If you want the details, Edelman is posting video of the entire conference on the website.

Sorry for the length, but there’s a lot to include in this post. In no particular order…

Wonder how to benefit from Web 2.0? Try new things, even though most of them will fail. Most Web 2.0 initiatives don’t work, but that’s OK, says citizen journalist Dan Gillmor. “The cost of experimentation in Web 2.0 is almost zero,” he said, and that enables us to easily move on when things don’t work — which they don’t most of the time. Keep trying.

Our PR’s pitches still suck. I attended my first “Meet the Media” panel in 1978, and ever since I’ve been listening to reporters and editors tell why they hate us. I quit attending those panels about the same time I quit emphasizing MSM in my PR strategies, circa 1986. But today, I learned from some A-list bloggers that most PR professionals continue to pitch poorly, no doubt headed for unflattering coverage on the Bronze-Anvil-Award-winning Bad Pitch Blog. (Plug intended. Congrats to Kevin and Richard!)

Steve Rubel (Edelman) and Josh Bernoff (Forrester Research) say they sometimes get 100+ pitches a day from PR types hoping to trade on the credibility of their blogs. The vast majority of those pitches fall short.

Rubel says he sees no real innovation by publicists, who tend to treat bloggers as an extension of the MSM. Bernoff says most of the pitches in his email are spam, mass produced by publicists who don’t take the time to read his blog and tailor their pitches to his interests. It’s the same refrain we’ve been hearing from MSM for, well, for the entire 30 years I’ve been around the biz. Let’s get it together, folks.

What about localizing online networks? Scott Heiferman, CEO of Meetup, talked about how the site enables users to create localized networks with an eye toward F2F linkups. Meetup groups, he says, are evidence that “organizing people is more powerful than organizing information,” although Web 2.0 delivers both.

Scott cited a cool example of several MeetUp groups for dog-owners in NYC. Seems the Meetup groups formed a coalition to leverage discounts from local businesses that service pet owners. So there can be a marketing as well as a relationship-building component in this concept.

Granted, Scott’s example is just one more case of how social media created a measurable impact — and those cases are becoming plentiful. But I was intrigued with the idea of using social networks as a stepping stone to F2F. Seems a logical progression — bring people together in both the virtual and the physical worlds. How can we use that?

Advertisers must shift from intrusion to invitation. Scott Donaton, publisher of Ad Age, says advertisers who want a piece of Web 2.0 must move from an “intrusion” model of communication to and invitation model. Online consumers won’t be force-fed content, so the old-line, in-your-face marketing tactics won’t cut it.

Still, Scott says plenty of customers will engage in online conversations about commercial products if given the incentive. Social media can reach the passionate users and get them talking, and that makes marketing more relevant and more productive.

Looking for customer input? Talk to Tim and Nina Zagat, founders of the popular Zagat guides, which now reach far beyond restaurants. As part of the panel on user-created content, the Zagats discussed how the Web streamlined their ability to gather consumer feedback and provide information instantaneously. It expanded their network of users and inspired many more folks to participate — proof once more that people will find their passions in Web 2.0.

Ethics in social media. Edelman assembled the obligatory panel on ethics. But as one who’s been immersed in PR ethics for 20 years, there wasn’t much new here for me. Bloggers, like PR people, have their own ethical codes, but those codes are enforceable only to the extent that peers call out the violators. No governing body can ban you from practicing PR or writing a blog just because you’re immoral.

In reality, the penalty for unethical conduct in the blogosphere is faster and harsher than in the conventional world. The Edelman folks learned this first hand during the WalMart debacle last fall when bloggers chastised the firm and called for a response within hours after the story broke. Suffice it to say that if you step out of line, the blogosphere will nail your ass, and quickly. You gotta love the self-enforcement mechanism.

BlogAds founder Henry Copeland discussed the temptations and the dangers involved in Pay-Per-Post — a service to be avoided by any and all responsible marketers and bloggers. Paying for blog coverage, in my mind, is a bit like paying for sex. Kinda pathetic, and way too risky for such a cheap thrill.

Has the torch passed to the next generation of academics? While our room at the Harvard Club housed some 70 PR/communication professors, only 3 had spots on Friday’s panels. Two were veterans, Paul Argenti from Dartmouth and Don Wright from Boston U, neither of them bloggers. But the guy who really got my attention was a young professor from Northeastern University, Walter Carl.

Walter, who focuses his teaching and research on Web 2.0 and word-of-mouth communication, shared the stage with social media guru David Weinberger. The prospect of being on a panel with a co-author of Cluetrain would have had me quaking in my boots, but that’s why I’m in the audience and they’re on the stage. Be sure to check out Walter’s blog. This is one very smart dude.

A personal highlight of the conference for me was meeting David Weinberger, now a Fellow at the Berkman Center of the Harvard Law School. While David is best know for his seminal work on the Cluetrain Manifesto, look for his new book, “Everything is Miscellaneous: The Power of the New Digital Disorder,” to have a significant impact among Web 2.0 leaders and intellectuals. I’ll post more on the book once I finish reading my very own signed copy.

So I came away from the New Media Academic Summit with some great insights, but also with a lot of affirmation that we’re doing the right things in the classroom here at Kent State, and maybe, just maybe, we’re a step or two ahead of the pack when it comes to Web 2.0. I’m also grateful to Edleman, for making a significant investment to pass this knowledge along to the academy. They didn’t have to spread the gospel, but that’s what responsible leaders to.

I’ll also admit to being a little star-struck rubbing shoulders with so many of the blogging mavens I’ve come to respect… Rubel, Rosen, Edelman, Weinberger, Gillmor, Bernoff. As they say in the Big Apple, that ain’t chopped liver.

Disclosure: Edelman covered the bulk of my expenses for attending this conference.

20 Responses to Lessons from the Edelman New Media Conference: Here’s what mattered to me

  1. Richard Edelman’s Desperate Attempt to Change PR’s DNA (see http://tinyurl.com/22hfpl ).

    And you bought it!

    Well, at least you were in good company apparently.

    Sincerely,

    Amanda Chapel
    Managing Editor
    Strumpette

  2. Bill Sledzik says:

    I know well your views on social media in PR, Amanda. I still read your blog and I still enjoy it. So that’s at least one thing Richard Edelman and I disagree on, eh? Your contrary positions are healthy, and I welcome them in the discussion.

    With regard to social media, I’ve remained on the fence for some time. But attending this conference in New York last week has me nearly ready to cross over to what you see as the “dark side.” In reality, I see it as quite the opposite. I see the move to a social-media environment as enlightened, albeit a bit idealistic. I’m not so much buying into Richard Edelman’s model as looking for a way to embrace my long-held belief in symmetrical PR practice. Grunig & Hunt introduced me to it, but it was the late, great PR evangelist Pat Jackson (prreporter) who converted me — and that was long before there was a Web 2.0. Hell, it was long before there was a Web, period.

    For more than two decades, I’ve agreed with Pat Jackson’s and Jim Grunig’s premise that people are entitled to a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. This includes our communities, our customers and our employees, along with our well-heeled investors.

    Web 2.0 makes that sort of participation and dialogue far easier to accomplish, as it creates an excellent platform for listening and discussing issues that affect the very success of our clients. We’d be foolish not to use it.

    Is this an attempt to shift the DNA of PR? I don’t think so, even if Jay Rosen does. Jay admitted that he isn’t an expert on our field, and that he hasn’t followed PR’s recent evolution. He is correct in saying that our history lies with the mass media and with a persuasive model of communication. And he is also correct in saying that it’s tough to change that sort of DNA. But it is changing, and it has been for more than 20 years.

    The symmetrical model has been the reigning paradigm in PR for a good long time. Nothing has challenged it. I’m not saying it’s been the dominant practice model. It has not. But more and more professionals are embracing it. And if social media continue to grow, we really don’t have a choice but to embrace it. We will be part of the conversation, or we will sit by as that conversation takes place. Either way, we relinquish some control of the message, ceding it to our constituents. That prospect scares the shit out of our CEO clients, control freaks by their very nature. It does not scare me, nor should is scare any socially responsible company.

    In 1987, this kind of talk fell under the Pollyanna School of Public Relations. But in 2007, I feel a sea change — a welcome disturbance in the “force” that’s been way too pushy and way too one-sided for way too long. People just aren’t buying the persuasive model any more. And frankly, I ain’t gonna miss it.

  3. Bill,

    Paid advocacy without an independent judge will never work (just as a court without a judge would never work). You cannot play both sides of a transaction. We have a whole body of law in place just so as to prevent it.

    Bottom line: Independent third-party endorsement IS PR. Less than that is direct marketing, surreptitious sales and out-and-out flimflam. Ah… but it’s a living.🙂

    Seriously, when I here Richard’s idealism, John Lennon’s “Imagine” comes to mind. I thought about it not moments ago. There’s a video right now on LiveLeak of a failed suicide operation in Sadr City (see http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=7fc_1181665828 ). The man in the video is missing a hand and a leg. If only we could have gotten him to blog.

    – Amanda

  4. Bill Sledzik says:

    Amanda,

    So we get to the core of our disagreement. We have entirely different definitions of public relations. Third-party endorsement — if it’s the right 3rd party — can certainly add to credibility of the message or even the client. But it still falls under a persuasive model of practice, not one that embraces two-way communication. This is a different worldview, and clearly mine falls closer to Richard Edelman’s than yours.

    It’ll take a few years for this to shake out. Let’s keep chatting until then.

  5. Bill,

    Sit with your family at dinner tonight. Facilitate a “conversation.” Note: In that role, you are acting as referee or advocate.

    1. Again, you can’t be both.
    2. You/PR (pardon me) have NO moral authority to be a ref.
    3. As a paid advocate sans 3rd party endorsement, you are a shill of the lowest order.
    4. Lastly, note the “conversation” really doesn’t need facilitation.

    I don’t think it will take a few years to shake out. This is all common sense.

    Respectfully,

    – Amanda

  6. […] public relations and publicity via email.  Most recently this has been stimulated by the debate between Bill Sledzik and Amanda […]

  7. Ooh, I feel both enthralled and disgusted.

    Amanda posted much of what she did here over on MyRagan.com — I’ll reserve judgment (though not for too too long, Amanda) as to these matters for now.

    Bill, it might be interesting to brainstorm the future of PR in the context of a post-trust world — to Amanda’s points about the lack of a referee (or at least a somewhat disinterested party), when all speech is commercial, how will people source truth? Or, are we in such a relativist frame that truth no longer is real?

    My, what’s in MY tea this afternoon…
    Sean

  8. Shelley Prisco says:

    Wow! What a lively debate here! It’s no wonder PR doesn’t have a more concrete identity. From the looks of it, I don’t think it ever will.

    I’ve seen the quote, “perception is reality,” floating around in the blogosphere and it fits in this debate quite well. All PR practioners have a different “perception” about the practice itself and create their own “reality” to conduct their business, whether it’s amoral or otherwise.

    The entity, “public relations,” really isn’t the problem here. It’s the tweaked definitions that are created by people to suit a set of interests, whether it’s for the consumers/shareholders or the clients themselves. Once they determine what PR is in their own minds, they implement the ideas and act according to their own code of ethics.

    The bottomline-PR is a somewhat abstract concept. What is PR? It really just depends on who you talk to.

    PR is a versatile tool-Use it wisely🙂

  9. Bill Sledzik says:

    Hmmm. Time for a response, I guess.

    First to Amanda. That link goes to one disgusting video, but it did provide some discussion in my Ethics & Issues class related to what happens in MEDIA when there are no referees. I don’t favor censorship, but a little discretion, please. As for playing the role of advocate & referee at the same time, point taken. It’s a very tall order — but not impossible. Just because I’m an advocate (part of the PR definition we all agree on) doesn’t mean I can’t listen and consider reasonable points of view — even when I disagree. And it doesn’t mean we can’t discuss those disagreements in the open — and with civility. That’s exactly what’s happening here, thanks to your willingness and mine to air points of view.

    Sean. Welcome back. We’ve missed your wisdom here at ToughSledding. Only wish I had the answer to your question. Communication without trust? I’m not sure it can take place — at least not with any meaningful outcome or effect. If you embrace any part of symmetrical PR practice, then you must also believe that trust is the primary ingredient in the relationship — or in the case of the blogosphere — the conversation. It then follows that the key ingredient in the relationship is ethics. Without trust, at least at some level, we move toward anarchy. To steal some thinking from Rush Kidder, try to imagine a world in which you can’t count on anyone to tell the truth, respect your property or acknowledge your autonomy. The result would be chaos.

    Link to Kidder: http://www.globalethics.org/about/bios/rushworth_kidder.htm

    So it’s incumbent on all of us to strive for some level of trust in all of our relationships, business and personal. But is trust-building the exclusive domain of of PR? Not if we have enlightened management, but we seldom do. So someone inside the organization must actually play the role of advocate FOR OUR KEY PUBLICS (the boudary spanning thing). And yeah, I see the conflict — management paying us to stick up for someone else. But the service we provide in doing so is one management should value, because it broadens their perspective.

    Shelley, you raise a point that we don’t discuss often enough — the profession’s inability to define itself. The very people charged with managing the organization’s reputation can’t manage their own. Ironic, isn’t it? In the literature are some 500 definitions of PR, or so the scholars tell me. I like to tell my students that I’ve been hanging around the business for 30+ years, and my mother still isn’t sure what I do (apart from teaching). All the more reason to continue the discussion, I’d say.

    Let’s keep talking. If we don’t achieve trust, we may at least develop a shared understanding — another foundation of any good relationship.

  10. Sean:

    — “it might be interesting to brainstorm the future of PR in the context of a post-trust world”

    No such thing. Physiologically speaking! Criticism and discrimination is a natural defense mechanism. It prevents us from eating our own poop and such. Conversely, the brain has a mechanism for suspending criticism. Read up on hypnosis http://tinyurl.com/mgy2e . Fact is, we are in a constant hypnagogic state. It is PR’s job to manage that on behalf of a client.

    Post-trust world = no commerce. It is this reason why I argue that Edelman’s proposal is a bad business model.

    — “when all speech is commercial, how will people source truth?”

    No. When all info is flat unvetted opinion… how will any opinion rise above any other. Capriciously. If I wanted to predict… I’d look to the mob’s appetites like the sound of breaking glass, looting and hangins. Mobs as a specie are not very bright.

    Shelley:

    — “All PR practitioners have a different “perception” about the practice itself and create their own “reality” to conduct their business, whether it’s amoral or otherwise.”

    Exactly. The single most attractive thing about changing our DNA for Edelman and others is the potential dollars. Other than that, they have no clue where it is they are taking us.

    — “Once they determine what PR is in their own minds, they implement the ideas and act according to their own code of ethics.”

    Hello!!! Indeed. (Actually, such is the genesis of the name Strumpette ironically.)

    Bill:

    — “That link goes to one disgusting video.”

    It is news and it is shockingly real as juxtaposition (the point). I wasn’t being gratuitous in the slightest. I think the “failed suicide operation in Sadr City” and “the man in the video is missing a hand and a leg” were dead giveaways that it was graphic.

    — “but it did provide some discussion in my Ethics & Issues class related to what happens in MEDIA when there are no referees.”

    Apples and oranges.

    To our topic here, certainly referees in group discussion can be useful. Where refs are essential is when money and law are involved. We can have a spirited discussion about the Cubs, Hillary… whatever. But our spirited discussion about you cheating me out of $1,000 or parking your car on my lawn… is either going to be resolved with Mr. Shotgun or a judge.

    PR advocacy has to do with similar transference. We want the audience to do something. As such, an independent 3rd party is essential.

    — “Just because I’m an advocate (part of the PR definition we all agree on) doesn’t mean I can’t listen and consider reasonable points of view — even when I disagree.”

    Yes. But you cannot assume both sides of a transaction. Ours seems to be the ONLY profession that has difficulty with that concept.

    — “It then follows that the key ingredient in the relationship is ethics.”

    Huh? No. It would be nice but it is certainly NOT a “key ingredient.” There are too numerous examples of human relationships (that communicate well) that have ZERO to do with ethics.

    “Without trust, at least at some level, we move toward anarchy.”

    No. We move toward anarchy when we crush vetting hierarchies and dismantle institutions boundaries. We get anarchy when ignorance and individualism reign supreme. That then kills trust. I think we may have a chicken and egg situation here.

  11. Bill Huey says:

    I believe symmetrical PR is an academic construct that seldom works in reality.
    Sure, there is more feedback and pushback (like this blog) than ever, but that doesn’t change the nature of relationships or the discussion.
    PR is advocacy and persuasion. Is, always has been, probably always will be.
    That’s something many journalists, teachers and even practitioners fail to understand. For example, why should journalists be offended if PR people advocate a point of view? Contrary to what many of them seem to believe, PR is not just a corporate form of journalism.
    PR can have social utility and promote the higher good, just as public interest law can do as opposed to , say, insurance defense law.
    But PR is a business after all, and like any business, it tends to follow the money.

  12. Bill Sledzik says:

    Sorry, Bill. I’m not going backward two decades. Been there. And I won’t do it — not for you or for my beloved Amanda. We fought this fight 20 years ago and we moved 2-way symmetrical far beyond the academic world. I was out there, I used it, and it worked. Yes, PR is advocacy, but it needn’t resemble the “push” model of communications used by our cousins in marketing. We have ears, and now those ears are wired.
    What you and Amanda are suggesting is a persuasion model of PR that isn’t gonna fly in a world where we all have a potentially have a voice. As I said before, I leave that work to our evil twins in marketing. I’ve been there, too.
    You are sadly correct that many in PR follow the money. That’s in part why we have the reputation we do. If we instead followed an ethical code, we just might get somewhere, and we just might help our clients in the process. Call me an idealist, but I sleep really well at night.

    Addeddum: I’ll also mention, Bill, that I defended many of the points in your O’Dwyer’s tirade against PR academics a few months back. I’m a practitioner from the trenches who came to the academy mid-career. I share a lot of your frustrations, and agree that our present hiring model is broken. But so is the persuasive model or practice, which is why it’s been dying a slow death since about 1985. It may well be that social media puts it out of its misery. I won’t be attending the wake. I’ll be too busy celebrating.

  13. Bill Huey says:

    Well, it’s your blog. I just stopped by to see what one could learn at an invitation-only New Media conference sponsored by Edelman.
    Considering how Edelman asymmetrically abused new media channels on behalf of its client Wal-Mart (a blatant and obvious violation of PRSA’s Ethics Code) I would think that no academic would go near the place, unless they weren’t aware of what happened. Did that topic ever come up?
    BTW, my O’Dwyer’s article wasn’t a “tirade against academics” as you characterize it, but a harsh critique of a very flawed, self-serving report by some academics (and practitioners who should know better) on the state of PR education. The report was underwritten by PRSA and my dues helped pay for it, so my article wasn’t a gratuitous attack but a carefully researched and reasoned call for reform.

  14. Bill Sledzik says:

    Bill,

    Good points all. Yes, the Edelman folks did address the WalMart debacle several times, and acknowledged it as a blunder, but also pointed to it as a learning experience. Every academic in the room was aware of it as far as I know, but I didn’t survey them. Here’s the thing, when you’re out front on something, you’re gonna make mistakes — and this was a MAJOR one. If it becomes a pattern at Edelman, then we’ll talk again. What remains to be seen is if Edelman can change the my-way-or-the-highway culture of WalMart management. On this I’m as skeptical as the next guy.

    I mentioned Edelman’s comments on Walmart in my June 8 post about the conference. Richard addressed it directly in the very first panel of the meeting and Rick Murray later on. I would add that I was among the first PR bloggers to call Edelman out on this issue, but, alas, this blog had a very small readership back then. Hell, it still does, so thanks for coming by.

    See my posts about the Walmart “flogs” here: https://toughsledding.wordpress.com/2006/10/12/fake-blog-accusations-focus-on-edelman-say-it-aint-so-richard/

    And here: https://toughsledding.wordpress.com/2006/10/16/edelman-fesses-up-in-walmart-blog-mess/

    And here:
    https://toughsledding.wordpress.com/2006/10/20/more-flogs-from-edelman-it-appears-so/

    You may want to study the PR philosophy of WalMart’s largest competitor, Target, and the parent Dayton Hudson Corp. It’s a study in contrast, to be sure. What many folks don’t know is that the Dayton Hudson PR philosophy enjoyed the able counsel of the late Pat Jackson for many, many years. And you won’t find a more strident champion of the symmetrical model short of Jim Grunig himself. If you want my take on Pat Jackson:

    https://toughsledding.wordpress.com/2006/09/23/celebrating-the-genius-of-pat-jackson/

    So I will say to you, Bill, what I said to my friend, Amanda. We fundamentally disagree on our model/definition of PR practice. And I don’t think we’re gonna bridge that gap. I believe that PR must first be the ears of the organization while I see you and Amanda defining it first as the “voice.” If I’m misleading the next generation of practitioners, there’s no evidence of it early on. Our grads enjoy a 92% job placement rate.

    Yes, we are advocates, and that message comes forth in the very first lesson of the very first PR class our students take. But so does the message of ethics. We don’t have to be sneaky about how we practice PR. Edelman has learned that lesson the hard way, but they’ll recover. Now, when PRSA members like you and me start showing up 45 minutes early for Richard Edelman’s presentations at national conferences (as many of us did for Pat Jackson), you’ll know he has really arrived. But I know Pat would have agree with Richard’s concept of “open advocacy.”

    On your last item, let me retract that loaded word “tirade.” At the same time, your essay in O’Dwyers didn’t exactly mince words. Let me also say that the “defense” of your positions I reference isn’t something I blogged about specifically, but something I discussed with peers who were ready to string you up.

    We have 100+ faculty openings in PR programs around the nation in large part because of the old academic model that insists on a PhD to enter a college classroom, but not necessarily any practical experience. Here at Kent State we’ve struck a balance — about one-third PhDs with some professional experience, two-thirds seasoned professionals who straddle the professional & academic worlds. I wish more schools would see it our way, but, alas, the keepers of the keys at most universities don’t seem to value professional education at the undergrad level. Wish I could tell you that was changing. It is not. But that was your point with O’Dwyers essay, wasn’t it?

  15. Shelley Prisco says:

    I agree that the asymmetrical model of PR is the most pervasive model used in the field. I can see that it spans all thriving industries (i.e., healthcare and retail). I have also noticed that different publics will not support a cause if they feel that their rights or interests are not being adequately represented. Most people with an ounce of common sense are not going to support a cause that’s not going to give them a voice in return.

    Displaying a condescending attitude or image toward your publics can sometimes make or break your organization. If people feel that they are being deceived or talked down to, they can boycott the company’s products and services. Then who’s the one who’s SOL? I think certain forms of one-way communication can be insulting and a waste of time and money.

    I still feel that sending out press releases and brochures are good forms of one-way communication in that they set out to inform and advocate. To maximize these communication channels, they should be written in objective formats and in proper tone. Put yourself in the shoes of your readers. How would you want the information to be presented to you?

  16. Bill Huey says:

    Let’s consider a common form of one-way communication that’s heavily regulated by the federal government: the Initial Public Offering, or IPO. Firms file a registration statement outlining their plans with the Securities and Exhange Commission. After they file, they enter a “quiet period” in which they are prohibited by law from discussing the IPO. The details contained in the filing are theoretically available to everyone, and further discussions with certain parties might constitute a legally prohibited “insider” conversation.
    There’s no symmetry whatever in this exchange, and yet, in the case of the Blackstone Group, which goes public tomorrow, investors are lining up to buy shares of a mere 10 percent stake in the firm. The Chinese government wants to purchase a $3 billion stake in the firm itself; partners will continue to control 70 percent. Investors in this new public company will have absolutely no say in choosing partners, directors, investments or policies.
    How’s that for assymetrical? But that’s how it works, and a good part of the process is mandated by federal law.

  17. http://www.instituteforpr.org/digest_entry/the_fork_in_the_road_to_pr_research/
    This is a paper that is completely apropos to these last several posts. Dr. Jim Macnamara (a practice-based PhD) takes aim at PR practioners with little if any grounding in the basic theories of communication, and posits that the symmetrical model is already here.

  18. Bill Sledzik says:

    Bill,
    I’m would never argue that one-way communication isn’t of value. It helps to raise awareness, to serve the needs of media, and to educate those interested enough to use the info. Most info-packed websites fit the one-way model and offer immense value to users. In your own example of Blackstone, the asymmetrical communication serves to meet regulations related to disclosure and also to enlighten the folks who regularly troll for this sort of information.
    That said, I doubt any of the investors in that “line” you mention are buying into Blackstone solely based on the registration statement. I suspect they’re expressing a confidence in the performance and potential performance of the Blackstone management group — confidence built through F2F meetings with analysts who have asked the tough questions. But I’d best stop there, since IR has never been my bailiwick and I’m not privy to the Blackstone PR strategy.
    When I walk my students through Grunig & Hunt’s 4 Models, I point out that every PR practitioner will use all 4 at one point or another. I recall once staging a world-record attempt for Ferris wheel riding. It was a publicity stunt that would’ve made P.T. Barnum proud, and one that fits squarely into the “press agentry” model. But I did not use press agentry when working on behalf of a worldwide recycling/waste management company as we pursued community consent for waste transfer stations or land-fill remediation projects. That took 2-way symmetrical practice in its purest form — transparency that would make most CEOs wince.
    I expect if you and I sat down over a cold one, we’d find we have a lot in common relating to PR practice. I hope some day we have that chance. I’ve enjoyed this conversation, that is taking place in a symmetrical, Web 2.0 world. I think it’s pretty cool.

  19. Bill Huey says:

    Bill,
    A cold one sounds like a good idea. Then I can give you a copy of the paper I published several years ago in the Journal of Advertising Research that proposed the first new persuasion model in more than 20 years. It is three-dimensional (messages, media, time) and based on the double-helix model furst used to describe the structure of DNA. It is intended to replace the step-model first proposed by Lavidge and Steiner more than 40 years ago.
    All of the academics who think I’m anti-research and anti-theory are badly mistaken.

  20. Andy Curran says:

    How about this model? Clients: Don’t do stuff that ticks a lot of people off! Oh, wait…then I guess the PR job pool would shrink. Never mind!

    Seriously, do academics and consultants make too much out of nothing? PR is not alone with its proliferation of models. Education and broadcasting, two fields that I am very familiar with, are overpopulated with them.

    The two-way line between clients and their publics has always been there. Remember the protest rallies of the 60s? In the MSM, letters to the editor and talk radio have been around a long time. TV shows in the Phil Donahue mold solicited feedback from the studio audience. They were the blogs of yesterday. With Web 2.0, the backlash just starts and spreads quicker. And they can’t be filtered as in the days of yore. The technology is the only real difference. The dynamic of public response has always been there. As any credible PR person knows, the Boston Tea Party was a staged protest event. Talk about powerful social media! Round up your friends and haul ass to Boston Harbor!

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