|Medieval scribe Jean Miélot (AKA Jehan), sitting at a |
desk, making a copy of another book, ca. mid 1400s.
Image published: 1885.Credit: Eon Images
|Moveable type printer|
The challenge with this PR paradigm is that in this age of new media, people are less constrained by the information that PR Practitioners and, or journalists choose to make available to them directly or through the media. Members of publics now, as well as journalists, can seek information from millions of sources, anywhere in the world. ‘People have many more sources of information available to them than journalistically mediated sources,’ (Grunig, 2009; Shirky, 2008, p.73).
In the wake of the usurping of the traditional PR practitioner's message-conveyor function by digital media technology, Grunig re-emphasises the ‘re-institutionalisation of PR as a behavioural, strategic management paradigm in place of the predominant symbolic interpretive paradigm. It is only then, he argues that Public Relations can reap the full benefits of digital media.
As a strategic management function, PR Practitioners can adopt the wide range of digital media tools available for PR planning and programming - whether it is environmental scanning, segmenting stakeholders and publics, anticipating and dealing with issues and crises, measuring relationships and reputation, and evaluating communication programmes.
Digital media offers a variety of tools for scanning the cyberspace for problems, publics, and issues. The Practitioner can set up Google alerts for example, and use her organisation’s name as a key word. Similarly, by entering key words that describe potential problems and issues that relate to the organization, or decisions and behaviours the organization might be contemplating, it is possible to scan the organisation’s environment, (Grunig, 2009). Further, analysis of online media can go beyond segmenting stakeholders and publics to search for, and categorise the issues publics might raise and the crises that might result from these issues. Tweetlevel can help to evaluate the conversation trend around a given campaign topic (Patel, 2012). Digital media such as websites and blogs also can be used for issues and crisis communication programmes (Coombs, 2008). It is also possible to use cyberspace as a database for measuring the type and quality of relationships developed with publics.
This, is the kind of predicament that Shirky warns us against, when he observes that professional self-conception and self-defense, so valuable in ordinary times, becomes a disadvantage in revolutionary ones, because professionals are always concerned with threats to the profession, (Shirky, 2008, p. 69) than threats to the society they serve in the first place. Is this the writing on the wall for traditional PR practitioners?