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The 140 characters that changed public relations

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As President of the CIPR you have the opportunity to award two medals on behalf of the organisation. Both medals are awarded at your personal discretion.

The Sir Stephen Tallents’ medal recognises exceptional achievement in public relations practice by a member of the Institute, while the President’s medal celebrates distinguished service to the profession.

A personal celebration of excellence in public relations

I knew as soon as I took up the 12-month post as CIPR President on 1 January 2014, who I wanted to award each medal to.

Sarah Hall received the Sir Stephen Tallents’ medal in June for more than a decade working for the CIPR North East group, Board and Council. She has long been an advocate for the regional and national groups and has been the primary policy driver on flexible working and women’s issues.

The President’s medal has been a bit trickier to arrange. In fact I’ve only just managed to make the award more than two months after the end of my term as President.

That’s because the person receiving the award is extraordinary. He doesn’t work in public relations but has made a huge contribution to our business internationally.

One of his companies has been a cornerstone of the shift from publicity to two-way engagement between individuals and organisations.

I’m delighted that Twitter co-founder Biz Stone received my President’s medal on Friday at SxSW, the festival of music, film and interactive, in Austin, Texas, presented by Rob Brown, CIPR President-Elect.

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Twitter: “a platform for public engagement”

Biz is an entrepreneur at the forefront of developing new forms of media, networks and applications. He has helped modernise the business of public relations by enabling genuine two-way engagement between organisations and their publics.

He’s currently founder and CEO of Super.Me, a new social platform for sharing opinions. In addition to Twitter he’s helped build Jelly, Medium, the Obvious Corporation and Odeo.

Twitter has become ubiquitous within the media and public relations. The service enables users to share 140-character messages, called tweets, with their network.

It is a critical network for breaking news, the go-to digital platform for real-time interaction, and the pre-eminent mouth, eyes, and ears of every organisation and individual.

It is one of the key platforms helping to shift the public relations business from publicity to modern forms of management practice.

“We built Twitter to be readable and writable on every mobile phone on the planet because SMS is ubiquitous,” said Biz.

“Our goal was to provide the infrastructure to support the creativity and engagement that emerged. That ambition has meant that it has become a platform for public engagement and is part of the changing nature of communication between individuals and organisations.”

Biz’s innovations have driven genuine two-way engagement – accelerating the pace of change in public relations, in my view, like no other.

His entrepreneurial spirit and passion marks him out as a pioneer and stand-out figure of the digital age, developing new ways to influence the interplay between technology, commerce and society.

Previous recipients of the CIPR President’s Medal include Lord Coe, Sir Tim Berners Lee, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

Back to the future: social media is public relations

I fell out with the CIPR when former director general Colin Farringdon dismissed social media as a fad in 2006. I wasn’t alone.

My rehabilitation has been swift thanks mainly to forward thinkers such as Rob Brown who helped create the CIPR’s Social Media Panel.

That I was President last year and have been able to award Biz Stone the President’s medal is testament to two things: first, the CIPR is unrecognisable today from even the recent past; and second, the profession has embraced modernity.

We’ve finally stopped talking about social media as discrete from public relations, have embraced it and recognised the opportunity for two-way engagement.

Our profession is going back to the future as organisations themselves are becoming social, and we’re evolving from publicity, to influencer relations, branded media and community.

My career, and that of many communications professionals, has been defined by visionaries such as Biz, who have built the platforms and the technology to accelerate such changes.

It’s because of people like Biz that public relations is such an exciting industry to be part of right now.

Thank you Biz.

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Stephen Waddington

Partner and Chief Engagement Officer, Ketchum and Visiting Professor in Practice, Newcastle University.

62 Comments

  1. Back to the future … to 1948 and Eric Goldman’s Two-Way Street. Now a chance for permanent, participative engagement with publics over piece-meal, part-time broadcast.

    Rob Brown’s Tweet tease yesterday was well worth the wait.

    Great awards and worthy winners. Congratulations.

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