From Paul Seaman: defending public relations against social media hype…

Recently, I’ve been involved in a lot of debate and chatter about the implications of social media. As a consequence, Toni Muzi Falconi asked me whether I’d like to draw some lessons for PR Conversations. Thanks, Toni, and here goes:

It is often said that we are witnessing the birth of a media revolution which amounts to a social, economic and political transformation.
I don’t agree.
I’m almost sorry what follows isn’t a bold settled counter-revolutionary manifesto.
Instead, it’s a sketch of some arguments for a certain steadiness of view.

There is general agreement that social media is in its infancy. Tom Murphy expressed the generally held view on Neville Hobson’s blog that ”humans are so dynamic and unpredictable that it is anyone’s guess what they will make with this new tool of social media“.
Up to a point, I agree (I’ll get to that point in a while).

Meanwhile, Norman Lewis over at Futures-diagnosis has made a compelling case (here and here) in support of what social media could do–as opposed to is doing–if there was enough entrepreneurial spirit within enterprises.

I don’t disagree with his optimistic take. Though I might quibble with some of his sociological analysis.

I do concur with Lewis that David Nye’s Technology Matters insight that “latent in every tool are unforeseen transformations” is valid.

Take the recent experience of Telcos. At first they thought short messaging services (SMS) had no practical or profitable application. But the market had other ideas. (And there’re always the PCs and the Post-it examples.)
SMS transformed how we groom, flirt and maintain contact with each other on the move; that’s all cultural stuff. SMS went on to become a boom business that fueled the popularity of reality TV shows such as Big Brother and Pop Idol. So technology and culture clearly do combine to produce unpredictable outcomes.

Why then, might you ask, particularly if you’ve been following the debate between Neville Hobson and me (if not check it out here and here) am I still pushing back?

The answer is that I argue that social media are very interesting, but that I doubt they have transformed the location of power. What’s more if they have, I think that’s probably a bad thing. You see, I am concerned with public opinion, reputations and trust in society, and the role that PR, advertising and marketing plays in these spheres.

The bottom line is that I am a conservative.

I do not think there is much wrong with the structure of power in Western societies. I am inclined to think that the fans of social media think that it is a sort of insurgent phenomenon and therefore good. I think that if social media were truly and only insurgent, they would be mostly bad.
As it is, I hope social media may turn out to be both negative and positive – neither strongly insurgent nor strongly conservative.
In this I imagine social media will be like printing presses or telephones or blogs.

Let me explain.

There is a tendency right now to think we are in the middle of a revolution.
For instance, the likes of Clay Shirky and Jeff Jarvis argue that now or soonish PR is history, dead tree press is dead, old-fashioned marketing is toast, here comes everybody with the end of formal structures and intermediaries.
They believe, based on exaggeration of the nature of modern cynicism and the impact of social media, that corporates, governments and other institutions have lost the trust of their publics.
They also say control has moved – or is moving – to the people via social media.

There has also been much talk about social media rewriting the rules of communication altogether. In short, it is as if we’re being asked to forget the genius of Freud, Maslow, Lippmann, Bernays, Ogilvy and our other heroes and start again.

Unfortunately, the PR trade has been reinforcing its opponents’ messages. For instance, the Edelman Trust survey has done much to frighten and undermine corporate confidence at Davos. However a more constructive analysis of the results might have produced less headlines but more reassurance to corporate leaders that things are not as bad (or as different) as they fear.
I’ve written up such an analysis here and here.

So what do we know about some of the inevitable limitations of social media that should be guiding our response to it? Well I think there are three main things:

a. Social media is more personal than so-called traditional media, which was known as mass media (again, Richard Edelman’s concession that the mass is dead has not been helpful, not least because the word public in public relations is all about mass).

b- All this communication won’t alter some fundamentals about, as it were, the centre of gravity, of origination, of power, no more than rock & roll or the internet did. Though Norman Lewis is right to point out: “For the first time, the enterprise is being infused by consumer-based technologies and behaviours; not the other way around.”

c. Corporations are more trusted than most commentators suppose and they always were, and social media does not hold the key (though it can be a prop) to restoring the trust and reputations damaged by recent events. (I am happy also to argue that there is more trust than is supposed in other “unpopular” locations, such as politicians and parliaments.)

1. Social media is personal even when shared

One of the problems with personal experience and expression is that it can’t by itself have perspective. That limitation won’t change whether we are dealing with individual anecdotage, or bulked-up (social media) anecdotage. Moreover, Walter Lippmann long ago explained how the mass media served the function of giving the public perspective. I see no reason to think that amateurs and micro-social media will alter that fact one jot–though it most definitely will alter how the media interacts with its readers, sources and distributes content.

Consider, for instance, the well-known phenomenon of personal accounts of public services. British patients often insist that their own doctor is good and their own experience of the National Health Service is positive.
But this personal experience does not dent the patients’ perception that everyone else is getting awful treatment.
Social media might be expected to help the more general experience gain traction in a good way (over the isolated misimpression the lonely patient has).
But it is more likely that the social media will become a club of those patients with a complaint because it acts to magnify personal experience.

You might say that social media would in the end gain perspective by corralling masses and masses of diverse opinion and experience.
But social media tends to corral spontaneously the dissatisfied persons’ feelings rather than develop content critically.

That does not mean that social media is useless, harmful or reactionary, but it does mean it is not inherently progressive either.

I think that SM is rightly characterised as being personal. It is peer-to-peer. It is populist, popular, viral, instinctual, expressive. Some of that is good and some bad. Social media has a natural drift toward the dissident. It will be at its liveliest often when it is a sort of resistance or even insurgence. I believe this will often be as sloppy and thoughtless as it will sometimes be compelling. I think candidate Obama’s use of social media was an interesting case of this tendency: it played to exhilarating but not very well explored tropes of the outsider, the visionary, the transformative.

I am strongly inclined to argue that it is quite dangerous (because dishonest and dissembling) for firms to dress up in these clothes, particularly in their corporate communication.
Of course, marketing and advertising has more licence for rebellion, experimentation and invention, but firms–unlike the brands they market–can’t be personal. And they should be very alert to the dangers of being all the other adjectives above.

You see, I think some traditions are worth preserving because they exist for good reason. They’ve stood the test of time and they embody the principles upon which reputations and trust were built (more under 3).

I also argue that old mass media will survive because it solves a problem that so-called social media does not address.
Mass media provides, as Theodore Levitt might say, a solution to the problem of forming, cohering, expressing and managing and informing public opinions in its varied, conflicting forms. Moreover, I maintain that Andrew Keen has made a good case against the cult of amateurism. His defence of professionalism is well made.

In essence, if the cost of producing and distributing content has fallen close to zero, the value of the human element in the production of content remains where it always was – its heart and soul.
When PRs explain that people are the value behind the business this means more in the media than virtually any other business.

2. Social media leave the fundamentals (profit and loss) unchanged

Social media companies such as Twitter and Facebook are not businesses. They might become businesses, but to do so they will have to become old-worldish, in the sense of earning their keep.

For an alternative view of the so-called new world go to Richard Stacey here where he says trust is shifting away from traditional institutions–not to new institutions, but to processes, which make most institutions redundant.

Jeff Jarvis also dreams that networks will replace companies, particularly when it comes to news production. “When you think of news instead as the province of an ecosystem that is distributed and owned at the edges by many players operating under many means, motives, and models, then the notion of contribution, ownership, and control changes. People own their own stakes but they benefit by joining together cooperatively. They create a tide upon which all their ships rise. That’s a network, not a company.”

As PR blogger Richard Bailey reports here, Jarvis cites Wikipedia and Craigslist’s as examples of future-type enterprises.
Yet Wikipedia is going into utopian-reverse and trusting less and less in the crowd. It is becoming more professional by introducing intermediaries, editorial control (of the crowd). And of course it creates very little. Its volunteers copy out other people’s work and add value only when they refer outward to real-world work by others who are paid for in the real world.

The point here is that the huge argument now raging about media is about how its old business model is to be replaced. Social media can sometimes produce news, but it can seldom do the most difficult work of a news organization, which is editing. It can seldom do the most expensive work of media, which is to put educated, thoughtful, steady (and often very brave) professionals in difficult places, with the right equipment.

Indeed, when we see the “old” media seek to cut costs and appear trendy by relaying social media material (scrolled across the TV screen, read out as leavening), don’t we rightly mostly feel that the journalism has slipped? This is not to decry the role of social media in helping people mobilise, or to get messages out to the conventional media. But it is to remind ourselves that social media does nothing to support paying for newsrooms and newspeople.

3. Social media trust, reputations and power

Trust in corporations, friends, politicians depends crucially on their being reliable in the real world. Do they do what they say they will do? In a crisis, do they prove stalwart and honest? Are they fair in their dealings? Do they speak the truth, or dissemble in ways we can understand and accept? This is not about their being amiable, popular, or populist. It is not about their having a hip sort of voice. It is very often the opposite. Oddly, it isn’t even about their being virtuous or on our side.
It is simply what it is: a matter of reliability. For that reliability to “reach” us as opposed to being unknown and unseen, it has to be frank. So if we had a single word for what we find reliable, we might come up with “robust”.

Now let’s examine power.
Has power slipped from corporations to The People (especially to the social media)?
If it has, that goes against the massively predominant trend in leftish thought which supposes corporations have been too powerful and are getting more so.

If you do believe firms are too powerful, then you are likely to be attracted to the image of The People gathered in social media at the virtual gate of the firm, fighting back, bearing witness and so on.
However, I don’t think firms are more powerful than they were, the evidence – in the recession – seems to point the other way, but not because of social media.
Norman Lewis at Futures-diagnosis makes the point that corporates now favour social media because they felt insecure with their position in the real world to begin with, which might explain why Apple is less of fan of SM than GM is.

There certainly needs to be more debate as to why and to what extent there is a lack of confidence at the top of corporations; but I maintain as does Lewis that social media is not the cause, though we probably disagree as to what the real cause is (I think it is more easily fixed than he does).

Firms never had much control over their markets, the public or even their brands (remember New Coke?).
Today, however, social media makes it more important than ever for firms to keep what control they have (a lesson Apple seems to have taken to heart with its rejection of social media in favour of command and control).

You might ask, what about Iran? The answer is that it looks like the same-old same-old to me. For all the mobilising power of the social media, there was the countervailing power of state control of its technology. Social media leaves a trail. It is a not a good tool when confronting the state because it leaves its users vulnerable to arrest, persecution, sometimes execution, because it is transparent and easily monitored, and or cut off.

Building trust by corporates, institutions and governments, meanwhile, is not so much about making connections or even about engagement and dialogue with stakeholders but about delivering on promises, developing products, services and solutions, staying true to values and acting with integrity.
It is about substance more than hype and even words.
The most important role of political and commercial expression is to speak faithfully–robustly–about realities.

I should add that whilst I do think most political and commercial communication is about getting robust messages out, I do not underestimate the value of listening.
But consultation isn’t valuable if it can only hear the loudest or most numerous consultees. Nor is it very valuable if its main purpose is to give consultees a sense of “voice”, though this may make life easier for all concerned.
Surely we can readily see that most effective consultation will not merely vent steam, but will actually help people who have to make decisions, make good ones.
Social media may contribute to such a conversation, but there is no guarantee that it will and some likelihood that it won’t.

Conclusion

I love Twitter and can tolerate Facebook. I don’t pretend to have all the answers. Things are moving apace on many other fronts.
There’s no doubt that social media accelerates existing trends–driven by the internet–and that organisations that adapt and see through the hype will triumph.
Clearly, more work needs to be done to analyze how the new trends fit in with the old ones. But right now I’m pointing out dangers and threats to the business of PR and developing some of the arguments and approaches to counter them.

Of one thing I am certain, if firms, governments and other institutions wish to restore their reputations and win back trust they will have to face up to their problems in the real world, as I argued in my WSJ column here.

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19 Replies to “From Paul Seaman: defending public relations against social media hype…

  1. Toni, you’re right about the slides. But I’m not one of those people who have an agenda directed against Grunig. I accept some things are changing.

    Grunig deserves a more considered reply from me than pithy comments, I’m disappointed now that I posted one yesterday (apologies). To set the record straight, I shall post a considered assessment of Grunig’s thinking on my blog at some point.

  2. Paul,
    if you take a good look at Jim’s slides in no way does he imply anything like you write.

    In fact he refers to digitalization, which is a much wider concept than just social media.

    And he also specifically titles one of his slides (number 7) ‘new media alone will not change the paradigm of public relations’.

    The paradigm shift Jim refers to implies much more:
    i.e. abandoning the symbolic interpretative approach and adopting a strategic behavioural approach.

    Our community is populated by many individuals who voluntarily misinterpret Jim.
    The reason is probably that behind these voluntary misinterpretations often lie, for opposite motivations, business as usual’ preferences.
    I am sure this is not your case.

  3. Grunig talks about social media representing a paradigm shift for public relations. That is off the mark, I fear, because it is not aligned with reality. Though, of course, it is true that some things are changing. I shall come back to Grunig. There is much to explore, admire and to question.

  4. Paul, thanks for the considered response, particularky the clarification of your thoughts on the Edeklman Trust survey – by and large I agreed with your “would you trusts a survey?” post.

    I am continuing to work on a properly thought through exposition of why social media is heralding a paradigm shift for PR theory and am grateful to Toni for the Grunig chapters and powerpoint which forms a challenging framework for such a critique.

  5. Philip, thanks for the feedback. Your interesting comment gives me a chance to nail one or two possible misunderstanding which may have slipped in because of my desire to be striking and non-academic in style. Here goes:

    (1) I do indeed say I am a conservative and it’s because I think in our mature democracies both individual opinion and mass opinion is properly mediated through representatives. In other words, and in short, we have evolved a tradition that opinions, developments, policies and decisions are best judged and balanced and made after careful deliberation and usually by a small number of people properly deputed for the task. In that sense, my opinion and any others’ opinions are of interest and of some importance. But they are calibrated against others’, and things become settled by a process which isn’t directly democratic (in the sense that isn’t demotic), but which is more fully democratic because not overly personal.

    The social media “model” in effect risks undoing this evolution by asserting that remarks are of interest simply because they got made, and amplified, by people and within the crowd. This is – at least potentially – the antithesis of civilisation.

    (2) You are right to call me out on admiring Bernays (as has Heather Yaxley on other occasions). I do admire the man’s cleverness. But I concede, and should have said, that he is also a little sinister. If I understand Adam Curtis right, and if Curtis is right in his The Selfish Century, Bernays did believe that the power of persuasion and propaganda came in part from its ability to play on mass fears – the fears that lie in crowds – rather than in rational explanation or elevated exhortation. I shall revisit this theme (as promised before in a reply to Toni Muzi Falconi), but meanwhile thanks for this chance to offer a more detailed heads up.

    (3) I hope I never said anything which would lead anyone to suppose I think the Edelman Barometer is even remotely evil. I think it is over interpreted and in ways I don’t agree with, is all. Perhaps I should have provided the link to the piece I wrote from my home on Zurich lake as the world’s leaders flew over my home (disturbing my sleep) on their way to Davos – http://paulseaman.eu/2009/01/would-you-trust-a-trust-survey
    I’d be interested to hear your comments on my analysis.

    (4) I am not very cross about Twitter and all the rest, nor even unduly frightened by it all. I am sceptical that social media will be all that powerful a force, for good or ill. But I am not in the prediction business. Rather, I am trying to oppose the analysis, which suggests that the world has been going in the wrong direction – away from enlightenment and good society (I’m more upbeat than most commentators, including Edelman, not less).

    (5) By the way, I do indeed see PR as mostly a matter of corporate (institutional) communications – whether we are talking about firms, charities, governments or academic bodies. That’s because most of it is (product is another form of marketing, is it not?). I do think many PR insights apply to politics, and they also apply to other non-commercial activities (religion, for one, and most single issue campaigners for another).

    But then, PR is a sort of propaganda and there are lots of propagandists. I do not discount that PR is also a two-way process by which its sponsors (whether firms, parties, sects or campaigns) can listen as well as persuade and advocate. These entities may listen in order to learn and change, but they mostly listen so as to get better at propagandising.

    In conclusion, I don’t recognise the paradigm shift you refer to.

  6. I have just come back from the Stirling 21 conference for PR academics and am still thinking about Magda Pieczka’s observation that PR was about advocacy not dialogue. I think she was saying that it is naive to see any PR as in any way distinct from persuasion, which suggests it is incompatible with some of the claims made for social media as a force that will revolutionise PR.

    I was trying to reconcile this with my own thinking on the impact of social media.

    And then I read Paul’s post.

    I think he is right. But only right if you see PR as corporate communications. And as able to accept Bernays etc as heroes.

    And are able to swallow the claim that the Edelman Trust barometer is a force for evil.

    Then again, I guess I am not a conservative.

    I do see the world in terms of power relationships, and I don’t think Twittering will change the world. But I do believe that the fundamental shifts in the direction, complexity and aggregations of communication heralded by social media represent a paradign shift.

    The world has changed Paul.

  7. Jo has done a good job summing parts of my argument. Jo wants to move beyond hype – that’s the why to go. I recommend the post to others.

    One reservation that I have with Jo’s position is that I think that it will be a long time before anybody finds long-term substantial profits in social media. The first victors might well be so-called old-fashioned media, which are well on the way to successfully co-opting the social media networks.

    @jo I’d be interested to hear your comments on my debate with Neville Hobson, the UK social media blogger. Here’s a good place to start:

    http://paulseaman.eu/2009/09/theres-no-social-media-revolution/

  8. @jo yes, the invention of the telegraph did indeed enable electronic news agencies to function and for the industry to improve upon the carrier pigeons and messengers of old.

    I agree with you about the limitation of sweeping statements (always a danger when making pithy comments, and I am guilty sometimes, I know). My understanding of the rules is on my website in two articles debating Neville Hobson. The first of these was entitled “Debate: social media changes business basics?” and can be read here:

    http://paulseaman.eu/2009/08/debate-social-media-changes-business-basics/

  9. For anyone following my telegraph comment here is a link to a paper from LSE expanding @Paul’s correction of my statement that the telegraph created journalism. It created Reuters perhaps – news agencies – here are more details than I have at my fingertips

    http://www.lse.ac.uk/collections/economicHistory/pdf/FACTSPDF/FACTs17GB.pdf

    @Paul I think it is the sweeping statements that make people feel something has been left unsaid.

    Rules for whom? And in what respect?

  10. @Jo Newspapers began in London in the early 1700s more than 140 years before the telegraph began working in the U.S.. London alone had 18 newspapers back by 1720 with a combined circulation of 44 000 mostly in and around London Coffee Houses, home of the emerging London Stock Exchange. Their focus was on international and financial news.

    Moreover, The Times dates to 1785 and Switzerland’s NZZ to 1770 and both still publish today. I don’t think Twitter changes the rules very much – if at all – even though it is useful and great fun.

  11. @Bill you must remember that journalism only exsits because of the telegraph. The ability of technology to transmit info faster than people could move created an industry.

    Twitter has outclassed all the technology at the disposal of big media houses.

    The question is not if. It is what, how, when, etc.

    What is interesting now is not the broad brush questions but the finer detail. Which segments are suited to which technologies? Where is each segment profitable and with which audiences?

    It is true there is an old guard that is not using new media. It is of no matter until their profitability is utterly undermined. Specifics are the key now.

  12. Paul, it’s interesting that you say SM is in its infancy. I said this a couple of years ago at a forum and was hooted at by a bunch of Twitterers in the audience. Clearly they thought they were at the forefront of a fully developed medium.
    In two years, Twitter will be “so last week.”
    I keep wondering how McLuhan would have viewed social media. As another “extension of man,” like the telephone, or something more significant? I doubt the latter.

  13. Toni, good comment. I’ll just point out where I agree with you:

    1. You are right, most PR is about communicating with specific publics/stakeholders rather than the public in the abstract (though sometimes it is about both, sometimes about one or the other).

    2. I put listening at the top of PR value chain. I tried to say that one listens in order to help decisions-makers make good choices rather than to let the most noisy voices rule the day.

    3. Social media could be a great productivity-boosting tool (as Norman Lewis says) beyond what it mostly has become today, a gossipy substitute for mass media.

    4. Regarding the issue of interaction, dialogue and the difference between traditional mass media and social media, I partially agree with you; because I still argue “old-media” were (are) social and interactive, and in many ways remain better-connected and more influential than SM is among many audiences/constituencies/stakeholder groups that still matter.

    Yes, we are at different ends of the spectrum on many issues. But neither of us is a hard-liner or extremist. I’m glad about that.

  14. Well, I think this is is worth printing out, precisely because I disagree and therefore should begin by summarizing Paul’s point of view.

    My immediate reaction is that you are picking up some of the dynamics of social media that are worth formalizing in a diagram or something like that so that we can understand them better AND imagine alternatives.

    My second reaction is that you want an all or none answer. Social media is part of ‘contested space’. People are jostling for position in the real world and social media opens up a fourth dimension so to speak. Just as we would position our business close to the footfall and distribution networks close to our business, we will try to dominate this new terrain. The presence of this new terrain will change the relative importance of old channels and because it is virtual, it may seem ‘unreal’ that an expensive piece of real estate suddenly drops in value. This is very clear with small shop keepers who carry over high street thinking to the internet. They put up an expensive website not understanding that they have done the equivalent of putting it up on an unknown, unpleasant backstreet. Their presence on the ‘real’ high street does not necessarily have value on this 4th dimension of life. It is new terrain.

  15. Paul,
    I am happy you accepted to write this post because I am sure it will interest many of our visitors around the world.
    The more intense of these will certainly remember that, over these recent months, the two of us have voiced many differences of opinions.
    And just because of your thoughtfulness, passion and candor I would now like to indicate only those points with which I radically disagree, being in any case convinced that the new and hard sm (let’s continue using this as social media..)advocates should pause, take a big breath, look at themselves in the mirror and dive into a humility bathtub and reduce at least half of the hype they spread.

    You certainly are, as you say, a conservative and this divides us…which is good for the conversation.
    Neither of us are in their teens…and we are both very lay, and this also helps.

    1.
    I disagree with your statement on the disvalue of listening. This not related to the sm scene specifically, but in our profession overall.
    And this explicits also another fundamental disagreement which has to do with your views over public opinion, publics and masses.
    I of course entirely agree with Laura Bower’s comment and am happy and commend you for having very quickly restated your first somewhat quirky reaction.
    You do not have to throw Lippmann in the sink if you observe that, in today’s situation, the concept of public opinion has faded and that public relations, differently from marketing and advertising (you depict these three as triplets, whereas they are yes interrelated -what isn’t?- but are very different animals in the organization and in society), is an organizational function which listens to and inteprets stakeholder expectations so that organizations may take decisions of higher quality and implement them in quicker time.
    And this, before developing arguments, contents, spaces,and adopting channels of relationships with those stakeholders in order to achieve the organization’s objectives taking those expectations in due consideration.
    You seem to state that public relations is all about communicating to the public rather than with specific publics, forgetting that you may not communicate if you do not listen. So there is one fundamental difference here.

    2.
    I disagree when you say that sm have not changed location of power, have not significantly contributed to the fall of trust in institutions and organizations, and that these have not lost control of their activities.
    In fact you say that if the location of power has changed this is bad; that the loss of trust is very relative; and that organizations have never had much control anyway.

    There is no point for me here to argue the contrary, as I would be repeating arguments which have already been illustrated in this and many other places.
    But there is definitely a disagreement.
    Of course, I do not believe that power is no longer in large organizations, nor that trust has completely gone, or that organizations control everything.
    This would be ideological and not factual.
    But that sm has greatly contributed to these three phenomena over these recent years, is for me (and many others) a fact implying we need to drastically review our modus operandi if we wish to be effective in our profession. One of the problemns I have with hard line conservatives is that they refuse reality..(although not more than extreme leftist..).

    3.
    Finally when you compare traditional media with sm you seem to consider them as two different versions of the same thing. From an organizational perspective this, in my opinion, is a mistake.
    While traditional media is, for us, a channel through which organizations attempt to influence readers/viewers through the third party endorsement of journalits, to enhance their license to operate…. sm (and the Internet in general), more than a channel (which is also is), is an environment in which organizations monitor and engage in direct relationships between and with specific subjects who discuss issues of interest to the organization.

    Having stated my disagreements, I commend you for the soundness, clarity, cleverness and honesty of your post.

  16. Let me rewrite a little. Our trade is public relations, which refers to publics. But I prefer the term stakeholders when we start going micro; though sometimes the word publics is the more appropriate term when applied to a big canvas. And, of course, Ellen Simonetti got fired for what she put on her blog, not “here” blog. Forgive my typos.

  17. Laura, thanks for the comment. Here’s a quick response. Brand ambassadors get fired if they step out of line as happened to Delta Airways’ Ellen Simonetti as a consequence of the content of here blog “Diary of a Flight Attendant.”. That’s happened to many others too. We shouldn’t fool ourselves that being corporate is anything but personal, even if we happen to agree with the line we’re being asked to advocate.

    Our trade is pubic relations, not publics relations. I prefer the term stakeholders when we start going micro; though sometimes the word publics applies when dealing with a very big canvas.

  18. Thank you for your thoughtful article about social media. While I respect your opinions, I disagree with some of your comments. “Public” does not equal “masses.” Publics are all groups that affect the success of a particular organization: employees, the community, influencers, customers, investors, etc. Furthermore, I would argue that a business can be personal and that employees are the best brand ambassadors (ex: Zappos, JetBlue, Flickr, Timbuk2). I agree that social media is not a revolution – it’s an evolution of corporate and personal communication.

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