Architects and Public Relators: we both create SPACES where publics interact….

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A lively discussion came up last Thursday evening in Rome, at the second of the six sessions scheduled for the production of the video book on ‘What is Public Relations’, which my friend Joao so acutely and courteously described here, following up on the first session.

The general topic has to do with many issues my co-bloggers have touched upon in this blog as well as with the content of a recent (the plum of your eye) Richard Edelman post on his 6am blog

The participants where:
°Giampaolo Azzoni, brilliant young jurist, philosopher and highly reputed head of the communication courses at the University of Pavia, also one of the more pleasant surprises at the recent Euroblog 2008 in Bruxelles (see his presentation);
°some twenty senior Italian professionals, many of which actively participated in the discussion,
and
°myself.

If the Internet in general, and social media in particular (but not only blogs..) have recently significantly disintermediated public relators on (at least) three well established and recognized professional paradigms such as:

°‘one company one voice’;

°‘control of contents, channels, distribution and publics’;
and

°traditional segmentation of an organisation’s influential publics.

Elder professionals like myself have absorbed these paradigms in day-to-day practice, while the younger ones have studied them in college and are still very much practicing….

What are we to expect now?

Here, for your perusal and comment, are some mini-bites of food for thought which resulted from our discussion:

a)
post-modernity implies that modernity, and even pre-modernity, continue to exist and prosper, although in slow decline…therefore none of the three above mentioned paradigms can be abruptly abandoned in day-to-day practice, although it is essential to be aware that they are no longer to be deemed as paradigms and need only to be considered as parallel modes of practice.
A quick example: the pre modern personal influence and press agentry models of practice are still the most universal and still producing effective results today. As well as the modern scientific persuasion one is widely practiced in much effective marketing pr …while the early post modernist two way tendentially symmetric model needs to progress to a generally accepted global framework founded on the generic principles and specific applications modus operandi.

As a consequence, we must not be carried away by that growing liquid ideology that everything has changed, which is false…alhtough it is abundantly evident (and also banal) that it is changing…

b)
the growing porosity of organizations and the increasing relevance of pressures from a myriad of new and fuzzy publics who demand attention and influence (or are influenced by) organizational (and communicative) behaviours…goes well beyond the possible control and management ability of even the most powerful and capable director of communication…
These publics continually come together and eventually dissolve… and this implies that public relators need to come to grips with and be aware that control of content, channels, distribution and publics is (if it ever was…despite our professional lingo and vague and hypocritical promises to employers and clients) not descriptive of their professional practice, and not even normative!

The overall implication is that many more efforts (and, particularly, in the area of creativity) need to go into the development of real and virtual frameworks (may we use the term spaces?) where influential publics, believed by the organization to be relevant, are formed and stimulated, interact amongst each other and -where convenient and possible- interact with the organization who has made the effort to create that very space.

In this context, the competitive advantage of a public relator relies also in the ability to create a ‘space’ which is more attractive than another.
Rather than only communicating with an existing public (still highly essential) we need to create new publics by providing attractive spaces where their components may contaminate each other, interrelate and create value for themselves as well as for the organization which provides that space.

In the real world, this calls for a thorough revisiting of one of our more traditional competencies: the organization of events, viewed as a ‘space’ where we incentivate specific publics to come together not only to listen to us, but principally to interact amongst themselves and with us.

In the virtual world this calls for con-vincing (i.e winning together) relevant and specific individuals to make the volunteer effort, for their own benefit, to virtually populate and give meaning to a sufficiently attractive environment provided and designed by the organization.

Does this imply a trend a growing assimilation of our function to that of an architect?

This, by the way, will be the major attraction of the coming world conference of the International Union of Architects, dedicated to the ‘transmitting architecture’ theme, which will gather together some 10 thousand architects from all over the globe in Torino (Italy) from June 30 to July3, where the Global Alliance for Public Relations and Communication Management, Ferpi (the italian association of professionals) and Assorel (the Italian association of agencies) will host a workshop confrontation (July 1) between architects and public relators from many countries on the very specific, timely and relevant issue of the identification and engagement of concerned publics in the processes of land transformation to offset those devastating consequences of the global ‘not in my back yard’ pandemia which we have yet to learn how to cope with, and whose consequences on the world economy as well as on the implementation of organizational decisions are increasingly dramatic.

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