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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    Your suggestion of a basic textbook is welcome.

    As you know, Jim Macnamara has made a very thoughtful contribution - but it's certainly not basic and nor is it written for undergraduates.

    You're also right that it should be about public relations broadly, and not specifically about 'online' public relations.

    Isn't a 'text book' in itself outdated? Wouldn't a live PR wiki or blog be more relevant, esp as the needs (and channels) themselves ebb and flow?

    I agree that we could have corralled our group earlier ("too late") but I'm uncertain what you mean by "too little" Philip.

    This group won't be backwards in coming forwards, and we definitely want to collaborate with the UK's academics, and indeed with the IPR in the US no doubt.

    Whilst I can vouch that no-one will have reason to consider this group and its impact "too little", I won't try and pre-empt our full scope. That will be teased out at our first meeting next week, and put out there for people to debate, critique, comment and endorse as they see fit.

    Watch this space! :-)


    David needs to find out about more of what's actually on offer in UK universities.

    There are very few (any?) courses that are as he describes.

    And that panel should have an academic on it.

    I went on my placement last week working for an agency which specialises in online public relations and social media.

    He was impressed with my knowledge of social media and as a result he has kept me on past when my placement should have ended.

    If I had of not taken on the optional module social media module, Mac299, I don't think I would have ended up in this fortunate position.

    Thanks, Philip - be bold!

    Hubert - yes, and no! I still believe in books, for many reasons, but you are right to highlight the need for a significant online presence to carry forward debate. (Oddly, I think my 'digital native' students would also favour books over online...).

    In your posting on the future of PR education, you obviously encourage the (overdue, in your opinion) advent of social media into PR academia and practice, and the need for us all to get with the program. I think most of us would agree with you.
    As a part-time-online master-level student at the University of Stirling (in PR), I write this comment as part of a module requirement, and I recently finished reading your book Online Public Relations. Although some of it is way beyond me at this point in my early online education and PR practice, it certainly helped me along and I plan to reference it again in the future as I learn more and require some guidance.
    From both your blog posting about PR education and your book, I understand there is a lot for us in the field to learn about the significant changes in the practice of PR, but I find myself both agreeing with and questioning your comment “In 2010 it is impossible to do PR without it being online. It is like doing PR without people.”
    While I agree with the fact that we (as practitioners and our organisations) must be engaged online and incorporate online social networks into the very grain of our strategies and planning; I automatically begin to think of all the people in this world, including our own modern developed societies in Canada (mine) and the U.K. (yours), who do not have the luxury or convenience of online access and even basic online education or support.
    While governments are working to provide more equitable access, in the meantime, and I would argue, for quite a while to come, there is a good chunk of our publics who do not and will not have the time, resources, access, interest, or education to have the level of sophisticated internet use and engagement that those who are privileged and invested have.
    I certainly agree with you and others in the field who are stressing the need for us in PR to catch up and jump on the bandwagon as it is certainly an essential part of our practice, strategies and audiences; and perhaps will even change PR practice completely in the future.
    And perhaps some may feel it is the responsibility of governments and other advocacy bodies to represent those not online, however, I feel it is essential for those of us who practice in the field to recognize and approach those audiences who could potentially be left behind. You may think that is not our problem, however for those of us who do practice in the field, it is our problem, and should be; because if we don’t confront this issue, then we are doing an injustice to our publics, organisations, theories of openness and engagement of audiences, and society as a whole.
    By reinforcing this ‘all or nothing’ attitude of it ‘being impossible to do PR without it being online,’ I think you as educators are only reinforcing and contributing to an unequal access to information for our audiences, creating only further disparities in society’s ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. You are not considering or acknowledging all those people we still have a responsibility to think about and communicate to, while we also move ahead with engaging our other audiences online. Sometimes these audiences overlap; sometimes they don’t. And for those that don’t, and are not engaged online, we have an obligation to at least acknowledge them in academia, and communicate with them in practice; regardless of what developments take place online.

    Thanks for this lengthy and useful comment. I think you make some very useful points about access to online platforms, but also stick firmly behind the view that it is impossible to do PR without being online.

    Your points about access are important, both on a societal level, and also with regard to any organisation which needs to engage with a still large and significant demographic.

    Underpinning my assertion that it was impossible to do PR without being online was a rather wider view of the discipline. I am not saying that organisations must use online to transmit messages or engage with those with whom it wishes to communicate; as you point out this is not always the case.

    But I can't think of an organisation that doesn't have an online presence in some form (not necessarily generated by itself) nor one of that does not have stakeholders with which interacts online. If the organisation, however small, chooses to engage in "PR", it is by definition addressing relationships with other bodies/ individuals and this will inveitably have an online dimension.

    Thanks again for commenting, and good luck with the MA.

    Seems that your call in Ghent ( is a response to a real need. Should be part of the "Euroblog" project and the conversation should be continued!

    "We could start by having even one basic textbook that deals with 21st Century PR..."

    Its already in existence, its called The New Rules of Marketing and PR

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