Is there a digital divide in public relations?

The President’s Panel survey reveals that when asked whether media, such as blogging, fundamentally alters PR practice, one in five (21%) of the 200 senior communicators responded “hardly at all”.

notes a similar lack of engagement in digital PR when reviewing the Harvard Management Update article (subscription required) “Why PR Matters — And What It Can Do For You”.  

Peter claims the article could have been written in 1970 as its author, Kevin Sullivan (a former journalist now a law firm chief marketing officer) relates public relations entirely to mainstream media relations.  In fact, the podcast presents a reductionist perspective of PR as solely a “low cost” marketing tool; just common sense – and he even relates editorial success to the cost of equivalent advertising coverage.

Any graduate of public relations (including those who have studied the CIPR’s own qualifications) would challenge this viewpoint.  Today’s practitioners recognise not only the importance of online developments and more valuable evaluation approaches, but also the scope for public relations in respect of engaging with a wide range of stakeholders often without any use of media relations.

Peter Himler believes a exists in public relations – and wonders if the determining factor is one of curiosity

I am encouraged that 79% of the President’s Panel recognise the impact of new media – and also that 93% feel CIPR’s emphasis on training, qualifications and CPD is about right (77%) or not heavy enough (16%).

However the and of PR are among us.

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Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Is there a digital divide in public relations?”

  1. Clients are waking up to the need for integrated communication across both traditional and digital media. Web 2.0 tools like podcasts, online forums and blogs are familiar to consumers and increasingly used by corporates to add new functionality and brand interaction. All this means the traditional push model of communication is a dodo. If PR is all about managing relationships then these new relationship tools need to be as familiar to PRs as a keyboard, contact book and mobile phone. To paraphrase Tom Peters, there are only 2 kinds of PR agency in a wired world – the quick on the uptake and the dead.

  2. Dave – spot on. And, if PR practitioners (in-house or consultancy) aren’t switched on to the opportunities within organisations, other communication functions will make their role redundant. Being an expert in traditional media relations is a narrow road ahead for them.

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