You heard it here in Miami first. (and Courtney, we forgive you for stealing our line for PR News) The old models will not work in the 21st century. Dean Kruckenberg of the University of Northern Iowa started the revolution when he gave his paper (cowritten with Marina Vujnovic of the University of Iowa) on his theory of the "Organic Model" of public relations. He couldn't quite put it into a sound bite for me, but in essence, you can throw away the symmetric and asymmetric models, hang up anything hierarchical, and go organic. He uses a Lego set as an analogy and essentially argues that the PR model of the future will be inherently fluid, dynamic, relationship-based, and driven by a dozen influences that we probably haven't even identified yet. Right after his session, I heard Carl Botan discuss his co-creational approach to PR. Download CocreationalPR.pdf . He essentially advocates the same principles -- organic, bottoms-up, conversation-based, relationship-driven PR. Botan adds some interesting ideas about how we Americans could learn a lot about ourselves from the way our peers practice PR overseas.
Add to that model the concept of mobility. Chris Galloway, a professor from Monash University in Gippsland, Australia, argues that we haven't a clue as to how to address the coming generation that will increasingly get its news and information from a mobile phone. The question is, how do you start a conversation with someone you don't know and who hasn't given you permission to call them? My guess is that you get great Google juice and be there when they're looking for you, but I bet the number of people thinking that way are way fewer than the number of people sitting around the pool while all this exciting stuff is going on.
In the mean time, it's either a tribute to our profession, and the content being presented, or the inherent masochism of PR people that on a beautiful day, with just the right amount of sun, a cool breeze, and a swimming pool, I'm one of only three people that aren't in the meeting room listening to papers right now.