Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Putting the Public Back in Public Relations

Photo: Frank Gruber via Flickr Creative Commons
I've been devouring a professional book for a while. I just finished reading Putting the Public Back in Public Relations: How Social Media is Reinventing the Aging Business of PR by Brian Solis and Deirdre Breakenridge.

This book should be required reading for PR students as well as for those PR professionals willing to pursue and learn what's now and what's next in our profession.

After laying the foundation what New PR is, it's value, and what it looks like through relationships, the authors guide readers through some tactical ways to facilitate an organizations' conversations.

Breakenridge and Solis guide the reader beyond the surface-level of social media tools into deeper waters of conversation curation techniques.

Here are some of the more intriguing ideas and passages the struck me to share:
In a section called Don't Fear Change, the authors write
"Social Media is forcing changes that should have happened a long time ago in everything related to business...Whether or not you jump on board, these changes will continue to occur. And, to be honest, not every current PR professional will survive the transition: The fittest and those most willing and able to adapt will be the survivors...The PR professionals of tomorrow should all be engaged in meaningful conversations using the Social and New Media applications that enable forward-moving dialogue. In fact, every department of every business will soon find itself embracing social strategies."
I believe this sums up quite well the current trend in PR. What will be telling is whether or not communication professionals will embrace the conversations with, for, and by people as opposed to focusing just on the tools themselves. To ignore the people making the rants and raves is to ignore some of the very voices that make up a community. As Breakenridge and Solis point out [in a section on Micromedia], "When enough individual voices pool together, the whisper becomes a roar -- transforming micromedia into macro influence."

Later in the book, the authors move into PR 2.0: A Promising Future explaining new roles for professional communicators, the socialization of communication, customer service and breaking news in online communities.
"...[Y]ou must humanize your intent and story, and learn how, where, and why to participate. By doing so, you reset the dynamic for engagement from top-down to one-on-one's critical that you understand that PR is no longer rooted in broadcast methodologies and the single-focused, general messages that drive them. PR needs to follow the authoritative dialogue, where it takes place. Without you, who will answer questions, clarify confusion, defend the brand, or develop relationships for the long term?"
The authors weave theoretical with the tactical in such a way that the reader cannot help but learn of useful tools along the way. The section called A New Guide to Metrics alone is almost worth the price of the book itself.

The final section of Convergence puts it all together in a PR 2.0 + PR 1.0 formula with defining new public relations roles, the future of PR, and the conversation prism. I am very hopeful in their vision for the future of the PR profession.
"Next-generation PR professionals will exemplify a hybrid of several critical roles...PR will relearn the art of communications, listening, and interchange, and, in the process, become well versed in not only the new rules of PR, but also the following:
  • Web marketing and analytics
  • Viral marketing
  • Customer service and relationship management
  • Social tools
  • Focus groups and market audits
  • Market analysts"
Deirdre Breakenridge and Brian Solis paint an amazing picture of what could be for the PR profession while providing a roadmap and instructions on how to get there.

Don't ignore this book.

[Note: You can check out a preview of this book on Google books and see for yourself, but I still highly recommend getting your own copy if you get an opportunity.]