The Canadian Public Relations Society

Welcome to the “twenty-teens” by Dan Muys, APR

In public relations on January 18, 2010 at 6:38 pm

Here we are…2010. A new year, and a new decade.  It’s hard to imagine that the pace of change that we’ve witnessed and lived through in the last decade will only accelerate in the one we’re just starting. But that would appear to be the case.

Consider that when the calendar rolled over from 1999 to 2000 – the dawn of the new millennium — no one had a BlackBerry or an iPhone. In fact, iPods were in their infancy at the start of the last decade. The keeners had Palm Pilots. I’ll even admit to having a pager and a fax machine (what’s that you say?). While e-mail was pervasive, social media didn’t exist, let alone dominate the web.

In those days, media relations meant getting on the phone – or heaven forbid, in person – and pitching media. Now “citizen journalism” is sadly replacing real journalists and news aggregators are replacing real newspapers. In some U.S. cities, the daily newspaper is now a thing of the past.

It was Y2K, not SEO.

Of course, these observations (some would say statements of the obvious) are from an admitted social media novice.  As a Gen Xer, I didn’t grow up with technology like my Gen Y colleagues. There were only four TV channels available through an aerial on the house where I grew up.

What does all this mean to PR in the new decade? Or perhaps more appropriately, what does PR mean in the new decade.

Despite the dizzying pace at which technology is changing how humans communicate with one another, the CPRS definition of “public relations” developed a couple years ago still applies. The same can’t be said for a two year old smartphone.

“Public relations is the strategic management of relationships between an organization and its diverse publics, through the use of communication, to achieve mutual understanding, realize organizational goals, and serve the public interest.” – Definition of Public Relations, Flynn, Gregory & Valin, 2008.

The tools may have changed, but the principles guiding the practice of PR remain the same. And that only makes sense – in effect it’s the number of publics and vehicles to reach them has grown exponentially.

Consider the following as food for thought:

  • Pepsi recently announced it would not be buying Super Bowl ad time in 2010 for the first time in 24 years. Instead, Pepsi is launching a philanthropic initiative this month called the “Pepsi Refresh Project”. The Project engages people through social media to vote on-line for the community projects they would like to see Pepsi fund. In turn, Pepsi sees the project as the genesis of “a movement” rather than a singular event to be exploited for promotional purposes.
  • Reuters reported that the second largest grocery chain in France was caught flat-footed and slow in responding to a You Tube video mocking them with a fake ad claiming their discount products contained human remains.
  • An ill-timed and ill-considered joke by a Maple Leaf Foods vice-president about listeria and the Stanley Cup hit You Tube and then took on a life of its own on-line.
  • Media training, once part of the standard fare of a PR firm’s service, has now been eclipsed by demand for social media training, session and courses.

Whatever the new year and decade brings in terms of communications challenges, your Calgary CPRS chapter is here to help.  In the next few months our professional development program includes a breakfast on issues management around the Olympic Games, a lunch speaker on the public consultation and engagement process around the City of Calgary’s westward LRT extension, and another lunch event on measuring a new contributor to the business bottom line — the Social Return on Investment (SROI).

And that’s just the beginning, other communications workshops and seminars taking place in Calgary are listed on the “Events” page of our website and include social media strategy and the 5th annual Alberta Communications Forum (held in Edmonton this year).

Plus events specifically targeted for Independent PR practitioners (consultants) are also under Events on the website, or you can contact Susan Elford, APR,  directly at director1@cprscalgary.com to find out more.

For more information, see the CPRS Calgary Events Calendar in his edition of HOTwire and click in the “Events” tab on our website: www.cprscalgary.com

Dan Muys is the president of CPRS Calgary.

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