It takes a very smart, very accomplished writer and thinker like Jim Grunig to pour a bracing bucket of cold water on the current social media frenzy -- "the latest fad in public relations" -- and then go on to propose a model to embrace the positive aspects of social media.
We expect this sort of paradigmatic thinking from Jim, (one of the pre-eminent theorists in PR, see this page, for instance) who has long been a champion of the PR profession as one of strategic management and the big picture. Rather than get-some-more-press thinking.
A new paper of his, "Paradigms of global public relations in an age of digitalisation" has some heavy going but worth a read. Here's the abstract:
Although the attention being paid to the new digital media may be the latest fad in public relations, these new media have the potential to make the profession more global, strategic, two-way and interactive, symmetrical or dialogical, and socially responsible. However, many practitioners are using the new media in the same ways they used the old—as a means of dumping messages on the general population rather than as a strategic means of interacting with publics and bringing information from the environment into organizational decision-making. For public relations to fully use digital media, practitioners and scholars must reinstitutionalise public relations as a behavioural, strategic management paradigm rather than as a symbolic, interpretive paradigm. This article provides a model of strategic public relations and offers suggestions for the use of digital media in each phase of this model.
Read Jim Grunig's new paper in its entirety here. --WTP