How do new developments find their way into PR? – On progress in communications management

Public relations did not become established as a modern management function until the second half of the 20th century. But as Günter Bentele has convincingly shown in his studies of the history of PR in Germany, the roots of the profession go back to the Prussian reform movement, well over 200 years ago. Since then, the discipline has evolved and grown more professional in a multi-phase development. Bentele identifies seven such phases, the last of which – “digitalization, internet, and globalization” – ushered in the epoch of strategically based communications management.

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Next stop sunlit uplands? – Transformation needs communication and patience

In October, a team at the University of Leipzig headed up by Ansgar Zerfaß published a study that revealed – not for the first time – a considerable lack of trust and understanding among the German and European populace for those who are mainly responsible for creating public opinion: only just over eight percent of all Germans trust communicators and the PR industry. And with trust rates hovering around 17 percent, journalists don’t come off much better. By way of comparison, external consultants and academics score 37 percent. In all European countries, 36 percent believe that the main objective of communications management is to guide communications toward a specific outcome. Only 26 percent believe that PR’s main objective is the establishment of constructive dialogue.

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Speechless – some thoughts on the sound of communication in the digital age

Language: the dominance of still and moving images had almost made us forget it. Now concern is increasingly being voiced about the growing brutalization, instrumentalization, and simplification of the written and spoken word in public debate.

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Staking out where we stand in communications work – companies between purpose and posturing

In an interview with the New York Times magazine in 1970, the subsequent Nobel laureate Milton Friedman gave his view of a company’s social responsibility: “The social responsibility of business is to increase its profits.” He was thus advocating the same view of business and enterprise as Adam Smith in the 18th century, who employed the metaphor of the “invisible hand.” Smith believed that the self-interested market player did not strive directly to improve the common good but, guided by the invisible hand, ensured that scarce goods were distributed in the best possible way. Just under half a century after Friedman’s pithy statement, the expectations placed on companies by society have changed dramatically, and thus also the way companies and their executives see themselves.

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Why communications isn’t a bullshit job

If you’ve been in the business a while, then you’re well aware that PR people are paid to take care of things for which no one is really responsible. I mean, who else handles everything from vague requests to “cooperate” that aren’t addressed to anyone in particular, to cryptic customer complaints based on mystical facts and figures, to that yearly yet fateful question so delightfully chock-full of pitfalls: How should we design our Christmas card? And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. As communicators, our very job description includes assuming responsibility for things for which no one person could possibly be personally responsible. Who seriously believes that an organization’s reputation hinges on one individual or, for that matter, that it can be casually shaped from an Archimedean point provided by the communications department.

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Practice, practice, practice…and then forget it all! – how jazz can inspire agile communications management

Life is not a math problem. You can’t solve for X and find one correct answer. The human experience is an incessant interaction with a rather unpredictable world. Mother nature does what she pleases while the people we meet follow their own passions and desires. Surprises are inevitable. French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre used what was for him a rather unusual example to explain this phenomenon: “In a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team.”

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