The AMA Handbook of Public Relations

The AMA Handbook of Public Relations

Author: Robert L. Dilenschneider
Pub Date: February 2010
Print Edition: $35.00
Print ISBN: 9780814415252
Page Count: 256
Format: Hardback
e-Book ISBN: 9780814415269

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“The old paradigms were breaking down faster

than the new ones emerging, producing panic

among those most invested in the status quo.”

—MIT media professor HENRY JENKINS in Convergence

Culture: When Old and New Media Collide (New York

University Press, 2006)

SUCCESS IN PUBLIC RELATIONS depends on the ability to communicate—

to put your ideas and thoughts across to others, to make

them listen, to get them to act. And communication now depends on

technology that is changing every day.

Public relations was one of the first industries to recognize and

harness the power of the Internet. The Web was a natural venue for

corporate communications, establishing brands, spreading product

information, and much more. PR professionals with vision and

imagination jumped on board as soon as they recognized the unparalleled

possibilities. But the Internet can also be filled with unexpected

dangers and quick-strike ambushes for those who aren’t

properly prepared.

The AMA Handbook of Public Relations has been written to

help you combine traditional media and Web-based campaigns in

successfully getting your message out, while at the same time protecting

your clients, your company, and yourself against harmful


Here I am sitting in my office in Manhattan. But I could be sitting

in an office just like this one in Algiers, London, Oslo, Beijing,

Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Paris, or Calcutta. The reality of technology

is the same around the globe.

We in business are trying to figure out how to be successful in a

very different century. The key to this is finding out how to exploit

the power of the Internet. We know it’s there. After all, when Google

Inc. speaks, the world listens. Insurance companies, Wall Street,

retailers, universities, and industrial companies around the globe

know this and are struggling with what to do. This handbook is

about how you can gain advantage and bring your skills to a new

level and in a new way that will enable you to communicate your

message even more effectively in a digital age.

Yet the Internet can be a double-edged sword. You may have

been blindsided already by the digital guerilla attacks cyberspace

makes possible on reputations, products, and services—and ultimately

profits. Three renegades on caused Johnson &

Johnson to discontinue its Motrin commercial and issue a mea

culpa. The national pizza chain Domino’s was victimized by two

prankster employees who posted a clip on YouTube of a third

employee doing gross things with the food he was preparing. In no

time the offensive clip went viral, attracting millions of viewers.

Today is very different from those confident days when public

relations agencies executed proven formulas to promote our messages,

manage rumors, enhance brands, or support clients during

litigation. Every day I get a call from a CEO who asks about something

that has happened online and what to do about it. The public

relations practitioner must always keep in mind that the Internet—

where information travels at warp speed—can be a source of PR


On the other hand, the Internet also has helped many people and

organizations succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Consider how

Senator Barack Obama used technology to reach the White House.

Obama is the first president to have weekly Internet chats with the

people. Life has changed. CEOs now use the Web to reach managers.

Many CEOs are starting to blog. Think about how big corporations

are using tech to advance their interests, and how technolo-

gy has leveled the playing field so that success is not based on who

you know, where you’re from, or what school you attended, but on

what you know about using the new tools available to you.

When I leave this office based over Grand Central Station and

take the Metro North commuter train home to Darien, Connecticut,

I encounter another aspect of this new reality. Darien, like much of

the New York Metro area, still enjoys affluence, but now has a different

tone—it has become a community with many unemployed

financial markets experts, C-suite executives, and recent graduates

from college and professional schools. The jobs they lost, and the

ones they were educated for, no longer exist.

To make a living again, they have to reinvent themselves using

the Internet and then present their new selves in digital ways. For

the lion’s share that is a paradigm shift. Most businesspeople are so

preoccupied with their careers or schooling that they are behind the

learning curve about how to use the Internet as an extension of

themselves. That has to change if they are to be successful.

Your world is very different today than it was five years ago, and

it will change even more in the next few years. That is what this

book is about—helping you to adjust to a new world and to position

yourself for what is ahead. If you do not adapt to what has taken

place and what is yet to come, you will fall behind; and in a time of

economic challenge, that is simply unacceptable.

Adapting may be hard, especially if you’ve been doing things the

same way for years, but you must do it to survive and prosper. Many

people over forty are still not completely comfortable with technology.

People under forty learned how to use technology early on, but

they aren’t always adept at using it for business purposes.

Moving to new, or digital, media isn’t just a case of transplanting

old media. It also involves a new vocabulary, altered interaction

with an audience that can now literally talk back, and different standards

about objectivity, relevance, and timeliness. Indeed, for many

it has become easier to watch television on the Internet than on an

actual television. Today, nearly everyone e-mails. Many people are

now using Kindle to read books and periodicals—a change, a phenomenal

change, from the way things used to be.

Defenders of traditional, print-based old media criticize the

Internet for what they see as its shallow, unedited, anything goes,

copycat coverage of events. But they also acknowledge that the

Web has opened the door to unprecedented public participation in

nearly every area of life while providing an audience reach far

beyond the capabilities of most of the analog world.

This handbook will let you know what I have told many about

how the tools and techniques of the Internet combined with conventional

understanding of communications have made a major difference

in lives and careers. It will also tell you how you can master

this new world.

One more thing: There is no denying that those who seemed to

have an intuitive grasp of this new medium and have invested in

picking up operational know-how on the Web are prospering even

in these uncertain economic times. Like John F. Kennedy, Bill Paley,

Ronald Reagan, and Procter & Gamble, all of whom understood the

new medium of TV and how it differed from radio, Barack Obama

recognized the power of the Internet to reach vast numbers of voters

and raise money in unprecedented amounts. It’s a whole new


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