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February 4, 2010
Grunig's Gospel of Interactive PR

Put this in the category of continuing PR education, for it's very important stuff.

Public relations theorist James E. Grunig, of the University of Maryland, warns in a paper posted online that in the age of digital media, two-way communication is more important than ever. Digital audiences won't settle for "one-way" messages from corporate types, Grunig warns.

Public relations, he advises, is not about what management wants to communicate but how management thinks about what it wants to communicate and how it interacts with its stakeholders and publics. The craft should be viewed as strategic, not controlling. 

Grunig's hefty paper takes rereading and pondering. We were led to it by Craig Pierce on the PR Warrior blog, and we thank him! (Craig is based, incidentally, in Sydney, Australia.) Grunig expresses what we see as a great divide among PR practitioners -- those who pump out messages and those who engage with their audiences, who listen and seek to adjust organizational conduct (and possibility) to what they're hearing. 

"Research," Pierce writes, "has discredited the media release, one-way notion of public relations and the assertion that control of stakeholders ever occurred. Stakeholders, 'have always controlled the messages to which they are exposed.’ Best practice public relations, Grunig says, is 'a participant in organisational decision-making rather than a conveyor of messages about decisions after they are made by other managers.'"

PR, in short, needs to be interactive, not one-way, especially in an era of digital media. Part two of Craig's PR Warrior post on the Grunig paper is coming next week. 



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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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