What’s so new about The New PR

Is The New PR nothing else than the old PR? No, I would argue (but I’ll postpone explaining why, since it’s past midnight already).

Think this way: if nothing else, self publishing and new technologies have created a rhetorical situation which compels us to speak — publicly — about PR as a profession and discipline.

This is our chance to make people understand that public relations is not about spamming journalists with pointless press releases, or about controlling the information, or…. [add your pet peeve here]. This is our opportunity to show that we have a role, one that goes beyond what has been traditionally assigned to us (from town crier or steward to traffic manager and conductor), and to (re)define it.

Let’s not waste this chance.


  1. Actually, the new tools allow us to live into an Arthur Page view of PR. If you study communication theory, you will see that PR was meant to be a mutually beneficial, two-way process [Note: see Kami’s clarification below]. I think that what is new is the technology, not the goal of communication.

    As for spam press releases and being a mouthpiece for the organization, that is what PR has become, not what it was intended to be. From where I am sitting the new tools can be embraced in a way that honors the two-way model or not. And as you know to well it is not pretty often.

    That is why I am not in favor of pretending that the PR itself is new.

    I prefer to think of it as getting back to its real purpose.

    But hey, that’s me.

  2. Kami, I completely agree — Arthur W. Page has said a long time ago that “a company’s true character is expressed by its people” and that every employee is involved with public relations. Now we have the technological means to make it happen, to encourage and support direct communication between a company’s employees and its customers, and to make distributed public relations a reality.

    The point I was trying to make is that the public at large -including journalists and marketers- doesn’t know about PR’s focus on relationship management, of what PR was intended to be, or about communication theory and PR history. The fact that PR is in the spotlight again -because we have to incorporate new tools in the communication process- is a chance for us to educate them about what PR is.

    Also, we can redefine our role to fit better with the changing realities of marketing and communication. We might think that we’re uniquely qualified to be community advocates and evangelists – but that’s not how PR people are perceived inside or outside companies (no matter if we like it or not).

    If PR was meant to be a mutually beneficial 2-way process from the get going is a different discussion, which deserves a separate post :)

  3. Building off of what Kami says, I think it’s also the case that “PR” isn’t the problem. We’re blessed and cursed by tools and technologies that let anyone — marketers, advertisers, business owners, random Janes and Joes — do thinks that look like “PR” but stink to high heaven.

    Of course, it’s not my intent to let all PR people off the hook. Certainly plenty of us have performed less than ideally from time to time.

  4. Constantin, I realized after leaving my comment that my “was intended” might lead people to read that it was always intended to be 2-way, and of course, that isn’t so.

    In the comments on my post Bill Sledzik said it better than I, “Since PR discovered the symmetrical model back in the early 1980s, the focus of our work shifted from delivering messages to developing relationships. While that shift is enhanced by new media “conversation,” the approach isn’t new at all.”

    He also has a great post about the origins of PR and our friend Bernays, who also happened to be Freud’s nephew, but I digress…

  5. I agree, we are suffering from the same problem in Italy: a lot of fake PR professionals polluting our market. But I agree that we can show to our customers the value of our work and define ourself better.

  6. Yes, an interesting fellow that Bernays chap ;-0

    I think that the PR profession and professional could go a long way by studying the 7 Principles laid out by Arthur Page. “The Seven Principles of PR, But Get a Spine First,” is one of the most popular posts on my blog. I think that the reason they resonate is due to their timeless truthfulness.

    They reflect the best of the principles of so-called “New PR” without the technology. The problem was that the principles didn’t scale. That is why the technology is a deal changer.

    This has been my argument since the beginning of my experimentation into what we now call social media or CGM or Web 2.0.

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  8. In theory, new PR is not new at all, but in practice, it is. Social media have changed the dynamics in the PR environment in a way that’s almost forcing PR to open up and become 2-way/relationship oriented/conversational. There’s a lot of power in these new media, and because almost everyone has access to them, the power is being redistributed in society. Publics are gaining more power everyday, and these new power dynamics are changing PR practice. Conversational PR or having a relationship between an organization and a public were nice abstract concepts, but almost impossible to operationalize. Social media has enabled these concept to be manifested in very tangible ways.

  9. I couldn’t agree more, both with the post and the comments above. PR theorists, such as Dr, James Grunig preached the two-symmetrical model of communications as a the best practice for PR.

    These new technologies allow us to create a two-way street, fostering a conversation about topics or brands, rather than the mail merge email blast that seems to work its way into too many communications strategies.

  10. Just seems to be that PR is morphing ever more into branding / advertising (not surprising there are lots of PR people working in ad agencies now).

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