Outside Voices: Steve Rubel On Public Relating
Each week we invite someone from outside PE to weigh in with their thoughts about CBS News and the media at large. This week we asked Steve Rubel, senior vice president at Edelman public relations and author of the blog Micropersuasion (one of Technorati's top 100 blogs.) As an influential blogger and PR executive, Rubel takes a look at what an effort for greater transparency might do for journalism and public relations (see more Rubel in this Washington Post chat). As always, the opinions expressed and factual assertions made in "Outside Voices" are those of the author, not ours, and we seek a wide variety of voices. Here's Steve:
What is journalism? According to Wikipedia, journalism is "a discipline of collecting, analyzing, verifying, and presenting information gathered regarding current events, including trends, issues and people."
Now, what is "public relations?" Turing again to Wikipedia, PR is defined as "the art and science of building relationships between an organization and its key audiences."
OK, one last question. I promise. Why are we here? Well, Public Eye's mission is to bring transparency to the editorial operations of CBS News. It's a blog for CBS News and CBSNews.com journalists to explain and answer questions about the news they produce.
If you re-read the last three paragraphs, you might notice something striking. The mission of journalism hasn't largely changed. However, in an era where everyone can be a publisher (not necessarily a journalist), CBS is increasingly using social media to become more transparent to get closer to its audience. They're wisely using blogs and podcasts to break down walls and build a closer bond with their public. Journalism is no longer a largely one-way medium, but a dialogue. It's a conversation. It's a public relationship, or put another way, public relations.
Responding to scandals, criticism and the events of the 2004 presidential election, CBS and others have rapidly adapted to the world of citizen journalism in a very positive way. They should be lauded for becoming more transparent and open. Public relations, however, is just coming to grips with this change. We need to learn from you.
Veronis Suhler Stevenson pegged the PR industry at $3.4 billion in 2004 and predicted it will grow 10 percent annually, reaching $5.2 billion by 2009. That's a lot of growth for a 100-year-old industry. What this masks, however, is that the PR industry is also adapting to the same changes that CBS has dealt with over the past two years. Our practices are becoming more public. All of us who work inside PR agencies recognize that we need to build transparent bond with the public directly and not just serve as corporate intermediaries. We are learning from you.
Over the next six to 12 months, chunks of the PR-media mating dance will become increasingly public. As more PR professionals and corporations blog, we will increasingly use the medium to co-create and build memes with our audiences that openly influence the news. At the same time the media will follow your lead in making the soup jar clearer.
Where does this all lead? Transparency in PR and in journalism means a more open dialogue and ultimately stronger editorial products and services. The media will become more relevant because it listens and responds to create a better product. Smart corporations, meanwhile, will become more relevant as well because they will -- through the assistance of their PR agencies -- create a more open dialogue with consumers.
The end game here is that the rising tide of transparency will lift all of our boats. The PR and media worlds – CBS included – need to work together to make this happen. This will surely mean bumps in the road and perhaps a hole or two in the Chinese Wall that separates advertising and editorial. But together, we will make this dialogue stronger. Our consumers want it that way.