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Don't Be Wed to a Name, 'PR' Or Any Other
By: Doug Bedell
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We need to be clear about this. Flack Me is a blog about public relations, for now. "Fow now? What's that mean?" Simple. A post by Gary Goldhammer brings home that, with communication modes changing as rapidly as they are (51 percent of all Americans are now on Facebook, we read earlier today), "public relations" is a moniker that might not stick forever. We wouldn't, for example, want to be a director of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), which might have to go through the throes of a name change to stay relevant (or even fold up, Goldhammer feels).

Gary, formerly of Edelman and now of Velocidi, advises how annoyed he became at a recent speaking engagement at PRSA's Orange County chapter when "a PR purist" argued with a marketing colleague that "'marketers' had no business being involved with social media." That's PR's exclusive preserve, she insisted. Really? Come on now. That exchange prompted Goldhammer to propose that we "disband the professional associations."

"That’s right," Goldhammer writes, "no more PRSA or AMA (American Marketing Association), no more 4A’s (American Association of Advertising Agencies), no more anything that’s defined by a legacy discipline that no longer has relevance." That might be a bit extreme, for now anyway. But Goldhammer is right in that what's needed is collaboration to advance far-reaching communication, to create  effectively connective relationships, however they might be labeled by whomever helps advance them.

Goldhammer notes that he asked the Orange County PR person "whether my former agency, Edelman, is a PR firm. She raised her hand signifying 'yes.' Just one problem, I said -- My former boss, Richard Edelman, doesn’t agree.

"That’s right: The largest PR agency on the planet doesn’t consider itself a PR firm, yet we still have organizations like the PRSA 'representing' agencies like Edelman.

"Richard prefers the term 'public engagement,' because connecting with customers can be achieved in many effective and complementary ways. The public doesn’t care how it’s done as long as it’s honest, real, relevant and valuable. 'Public Engagement' is discipline agnostic, as it should be."

Hopefully, that was a sure enough learning moment for the PR militant who seemed so unmindful of how communication styles are converging around the Web these days. What we all should concerned about is connecting effectively, rendering meaning well, extending influence via new means - not attempting to preserve increasingly tenuous professional boundaries and, thereby, missing out on change.

"Stop trying to 'own' social media and focus on what social customers expect," Goldhammer urges. "Do the real work necessary to improve how we communicate, tell stories and, yes, sell products and ideas. You don’t really need an association to tell you how to do that, do you?" Good question.


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About the Author
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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