Mediations: Philip Young

  • Mediations comments on public relations theory and practice, with an emphasis on social media and communication ethics. Philip Young is project leader for NEMO: New Media, Modern Democracy at Campus Helsingborg, Lund University, Sweden. All views expressed here are personal and should not be seen as representing Lund University or any other organisation.

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    I like this. I am uncomfortable with the Stakeholder theory for the same reasons but do see some merit in social segmentation and go along with the Grunig view to this extent: segmentation has to offer a context with capability to hold a conversation within socially acceptable bounds of common emotional, knowledge and cultural (frequently political) mores and values including a language acceptable to the constituency of the organisation.

    Language in this context has to be inclusive of all available senses that can be deployed.

    Thus, the concept of 'publics forming round issues' holds water but is more complex than at face value and is only part of the whole. An issue, from my perspective, would be 'nested' withing a range of emotional, knowledge and cultural issue extremes ranging from trivial to life threatening.

    This thesis works as well for consumer fashion as it does for terrorist attitudes and behaviours.

    Bernays approach works as long as the 'wires' are invisible. Today social media makes them visible and so psychology, and notably neuro-psychology, has a lot to offer the practice of Public Relations because it gives us insights into motives and drivers, stripped of theory (in Bernays case, Freud) based on the fashion of the day.

    Furthermore, the benefits of transparency, a process accelerated by the Internet, have commercial advantage but only until tangible assets are stripped down to their basic (and very intangible) values.

    So I will go along with your conclusion only this far, at the periphery fashion may resurrect the spirit of Bernays but will not be durable which is why I like this post so much.

    Applying such a process does need an ability to draw a 'social frame' in which the constituent has, at a moment in time, the environment, knowledge (emotional, values and cultural) and interactive capability to evaluate benefit derived from the 'conversation' and thus create a relationship.

    Organisations are the nexus of relationships (Coase was wrong) and Bainbridge needs to take his thinking on a bit because the primacy argument does not include that magic element of time (who is at the nexus of relationships at the time when the decision has to be made).

    It is Public Relations in its purest mode that actually decides who is at the nexus and that, because of Internet transparency, need not be the organisation and may well be the consumer.

    Marketing, as we know it is disintermediated.

    Of course we move on, but no one should attempt to wipe history. Propaganda meant something different in 1928, at the start of the era of totalitarianism. If you take out Bernays, what do you do with Kevin Moloney whose very significant contribution to this debate (Rethinking Public Relations 2nd edition) is subtitled 'PR Propaganda and Democracy'? Note the lack of punctuation.

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