Richard Edelman, president and CEO of Edelman, argues that case in the inaugural event of the University of Maryland’s Grunig Lecture Series, sponsored by the Institute for Public Relations.

Edelman believes that communications strategy and programming must be fundamentally reassessed today, in light of forces such as: the collapse of trust in financial institutions, a global rise in government intervention, the growing rich/poor divide, dispersion of authority/influence, and the morphing of mainstream and new media.

Public relations traditionally has been relegated to the communications realm while management consulting and research are positioned in the strategy realm. But Edelman posits that public relations may be destined to hold a unique position between the two realms, with commensurate growth opportunities.

As we move from public relations to public engagement, we will deal no longer with the pyramid of influence but with a sphere of cross-influence. The key tenets of such engagement will include:

  • Democratic and decentralized
  • Informing the conversation
  • Engaging with influencers of all stripes
  • In both policy and communication

Edelman goes on to describe four spaces where public engagement must be implemented: controlled communication and collaboration, versus open communication and collaboration. He follows up with specific cases demonstrating how this can be done.

“Now is our time,” he concludes, as PR leads the move to public engagement.

View Edelman’s Presentation

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Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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2 thoughts on “Is Public Engagement the Future of Public Relations?

  1. Richard Edelman’s insights are in congruence with the findings of the Arthur W. Page Society’s paper: “The Authentic Enterprise” published on this website not so long ago. This congruence is especially compelling in connection with the paper’s call for the evolution of the profession, the challenge of trust and the role of The new Chief Communications Officer (CCO).

    Now it is up to the profession to systematically and logically implement these insights in their daily strategic/tactical dispositions in their organizations. There eill be reistance from other power centers in the organization, because power is rarely given up by those who have it without a fight.

    To be of any use to the profession, the insights have to be operationalized and implemented.

  2. Fascinating presentation that captures the turbulence in all fields of communications from mass marketing to influencer dialogues.  Particularly appreciated the nod to employees as credible sources.  In my past with GM, we had not asked whether employees were more credible than the CEO, but did find consistently that consumers around the world highly trusted and frequently sought out the advice and opinions of employees, particularly about the products they build and use.  Notion of public engagement is most timely with the fragmentation of communication channels so that each of us now is our own media outlet.

    Well done – thank you for the great insights.

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