October 1, 2007 update. Robert French wrote a terrific post about his students and what they are learning in his class. I wish I had teachers like him when I was in school.
I have completely come around to a new understanding of where the Public Relations profession is heading. It is so exciting to know that many young people about to enter the PR world will be equipped with an understanding of social media and the tools of web-based communications. The New PR Generation will be nothing like the current one! Watch out.
As I travel around the country speaking at conferences, I encounter hundreds of PR and marketing professionals who are struggling to understand and adapt to the new worlds of blogs, Wikis, chat rooms, YouTube and social networking like Facebook. Some immediately grasp the possibilities of online PR using the tools of social media. The people who get excited about the new rules understand that when you want to reach an audience, begging mainstream media to write about you is not the only solution.
However, many hundreds of PR pros, sadly, do not want to know. They happily go to their meetings at the four letter associations that perpetuate the myth that public relations is the same thing as media relations. These old-line PR people continue to believe that the only way to reach people is via magazines, newspapers, radio, and TV.
A few weeks ago, I received an email from Robert French who teaches public relations at Auburn University. He told me that the class of 25 people in his PR Writing class will read The New Rules of Marketing and PR and each week the students will blog about what they've read. Robert explained the purpose is to (a) help them begin to consider the new and changing world of PR and marketing they are entering and (b) to help them get started with social media - blogs, in particular.
Cool. Robert and I traded a few emails, but I didn't think much more about it until today.
My Google alerts popped up with a post from one of Robert’s PR students. In a blog post called Wow, This Stuff Really is Important Jackie relates a story of meeting several "old school" PR people (Jackie's words). Jackie talked with them about the new ideas of Facebook and blogs, and podcasts and ended up being asked to speak at a workshop.
Jackie says: "Those of us studying Public Relations here at Auburn University do not realize just how lucky we are…to be going through college at a time when our field is so drastically transforming. So the next time I find myself whining about having to write another blog entry, I am going to remind myself of all the people who didn’t even know what a blog was and be grateful that my professors are giving me such hands on experience, not busy work."
Watch out. When Jackie and the rest of Robert’s class and other members of the New PR Generation graduate and start out in PR agencies and at companies, we’ll finally, really be in a new world.