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.