Digital renews industry fundamentals

The concepts that Ivy Lee, one of the forefathers of PR, advocated were authenticity and transparency, two words that suffer from overuse to the point of cliché in modern PR commentary.

The concepts that Ivy Lee, one of the forefathers of PR, advocated were authenticity and transparency, two words that suffer from overuse to the point of cliché in modern PR commentary.

However Lee's core premise was that PR could play a larger role than simply communications -- that PR could shape an organization's brand and, by inference, influence business outcomes.

It was this premise that interested me most when considering a career in PR more than 20 years ago. But as I look back, that premise seemed to get lost as increasing numbers of people, including many in our own industry, began to view the role of PR professionals as spin doctors hired to "manage the message" and fabricate a story that would present an image of a company that didn't always reflect its true identity. 

Whether you look at the dot-com bust, the Enron-type scandals, or the seemingly bottomless well of scandals involving government officials, our industry is littered with examples where PR played a role that makes many of us less than proud.

I think it's within this context that the digital communications "boom" of the past five years has captivated me most. We've witnessed a fundamental change in the way people communicate and the way businesses operate.  

I admit a personal fascination with the topic, and I've been advocating the role of digital channels in communications for many years. While many of the discussions on this topic may be about Twitter, social media, and the degree of change the iPad will create, it's imperative that we're not blinded by shiny objects as we rush to keep pace with the latest social networking trend.  

Instead we should consider the fact that the evolution of digital communications has taken us back to many of the fundamental principles that made this industry great. The opportunity exists to frankly and openly communicate, engage in dialogue, and help direct and shape conversations in a way that we haven't had the tools to do in the past.

In a time of unprecedented change, it's interesting, and somewhat comforting, to consider how much of what is old is new again. 

These new channels – and the fundamental human drivers of collaboration, and creation they enable – allow us to perhaps rethink what PR has become. We are entering a new age of PR, one in which the medium is less important than the relationships we build. Let's make sure that we don't forget what we've learned along the way.

Aedhmar Hynes is CEO of Text 100.

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