Engagement. Conversation. Influence. Transparency. Trust. These concepts pepper today’s workshops, seminars, articles, and online discussions of what social media mean for public relations, but they have been at the heart of good public relations since long before Facebook and Twitter. What makes Public Relations different is how it organizes the body of knowledge in public relations in terms consistent with today’s more participatory communication environment. As a text for introductory public relations courses, it matches the classics in covering fundamental student learning outcomes, but rather than tinkering with previous textbook outlines a bit and maybe adding a chapter or two on new media, this text “gets it” from the get-go. It is attuned to both technical and cultural shifts brought about by the rise of social media.
Public Relations plays on the dual use of “engaging.” As a verb, it describes what students will do when learning – actively engage a new field. As an adjective, it suggests a philosophy for the best kind of public relations work – that which brings people together in active communication.
Public Relations is divided into four sections: I) Foundations, II) Strategy, III) Tactics, and IV) Contexts.
The Foundations section begins with Chapter 1, Principled Public Relations, which presents classic definitions of public relations alongside the crowdsourced PRSA definition. Ivy Lee’s principles of public relations management provide a framework for introducing ethical practice. Professional organizations and codes of ethics are also introduced. The rest of this section identifies concepts that have always been core to good public relations and discusses how many of these concepts have become more pronounced with the rise of social media.
Chapter 2, Public Relations Models through the Ages, covers public relations history with Grunig and Hunt’s models and Lamme and Russell’s taxonomy of goals of PR throughout recorded history.
The next two chapters outline hot topics for today’s PR newsfeeds, but build from a long tradition of scholarship on Convergence and Integrated Communication (Chapter 3) and Relationship Management (Chapter 4). Though grounded in theory, the ideas and concepts are presented with accessible writing, illustrations, and cases and examples from today’s media and practicing professionals.
The Strategy section includes all the elements of the traditional four-step, R-P-I-E process, with some extra attention paid to measurement. This section starts with Research (Chapter 5), which includes a discussion of formative and summative research to highlight the cyclical nature of strategy. Next is Planning (Chapter 6), followed by Implementation (Chapter 7), which covers action and communication in strategic programs and campaigns. The last chapter in this section, Evaluation (Chapter 8), returns to the importance of research with a focus on measurement and metrics for success in digital communication.
The Tactics section includes three major skill and technology areas: Writing (Chapter 9), Multimedia (Chapter 10), and Mobile (Chapter 11) communication.
The Contexts section covers forces influencing the practice of public relations as emerging sociotechnical trends challenge public relations people to confirm, rethink, or in some cases abandon past practices and ideas. Chapter 12, Legal, discusses law and policy. Chapter 13 covers Issues, Conflict, and Crises. Chapter 14 rounds out the text with a treatment of Global contexts that are broadening the practice of public relations in a digital age.