That seems to be the message from Philip Young who, with David Phillips, is editing a special edition of the online journal, PRism on the topic: Beyond Online Public Relations (to be published early in 2012).
Philip claims that “Today ALL PR is Online PR” and is interested in papers that support or challenge the view that it is no longer meaningful to discuss ‘online PR’ (abstracts of up to 500 words to be emailed to philip.young(at)sunderland.ac.uk by July 3). The journal will feature imaginative academic papers that expand understanding of the impact of internet on PR theory and practice.
The underlying premise is that we need “a fundamental reassessment of what it means to practice the discipline of PR” as regardless of whether public relations is third party endorsement, reputation management or relationship management, it is necessarily online.
Others may feel that the focus on digital PR has gone too far, or reflects simply another communications channel. What about the two-thirds of the world’s population who are excluded for reasons of access or ability from the online world? Or the increasing trend towards commercialisation of cyberspace and its impact on notions that social media facilitates a dialogic form of relationship building PR? Let alone the consequences of increasingly living life – and managing reputations – in a virtual world? What does that do to trust, the social sphere and a sense of reality and perspective through which people traditionally view news, public and private information?
From my interest in career perspectives of public relations, I wonder whether practitioners are equipped to forge new paths in an online dominated world? Will we be reduced to call centre operators typing out tweets and other attempts to “engage” with online communities? How can we have a point of difference when every digital native can employ digital PR skills? And will organizations recruit, train and develop PR practitioners of the future into strategic management roles if their entire focus in the online terrain?
Lots to ponder and I’m sure this relates to many practical case studies from those working in PR, as well as dissertations being undertaken by students and academic research initiatives. The edition is looking for papers which:
- Discuss the implications for organisational reputation and relationships through the lens of rich online content; internet enabled interactive communication and radical reach; transparency and radical transparency; and institutional porosity and public exposure
- Extend thinking about the shape of public relations practice in 2020 and beyond, paying particular attention to the concept and PR practices affecting the dominant coalition mediated by the semantic web; values derived relationship paradigm and the “Internet of Things”
- Provide case studies that show how imaginative understandings of social media can add a new dimension to understandings of relationship management
- Articulate evolved forms of existing theory, including the Grunigian Excellence paradigm
- Offer a roadmap for integrating what was briefly considered to be “online PR” into academic study
- Examine the contribution of the growing number of social media gurus to practical and theoretical understandings of the discipline
- Examine the significance of the 2010 Stockholm Accords to practice that is not mediated by internet protocols.
The resulting edition aims to “mark a coming of age of an evolved articulation of a discipline that can play a significant role in organisational activity”. Agree or disagree? Answers in no more than 500 words as an initial abstract as above…