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A story of two books about public relations – separated by 25 years

The second edition of #FuturePRoof continues to assert the value of public relations. It launches today with 39 new essays exploring the future of the profession and celebrates a book by Dr Jon White published 25 years earlier.

In his book How to Understand and Manage Public Relations, Dr Jon White presents a guide to modern public relations practice.

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Jon calls on managers to recognise the benefit of public relations to organisations as a management discipline.

Examples of the contribution of practice to employees, public affairs, marketing, investment and crisis, are all cited. Challenges such as planning and measurement are tackled.

Here’s the issue: Jon’s book was first published in 1991. It turns out that it was both visionary and timeless.

Back to the future for public relations

25 years on, public relations is experiencing something of a resurgence in confidence thanks to technology and new forms of media.

Thinkers and doers are working together to create projects such as #FuturePRoof, building on work of previous generations. The second edition of #FuturePRoof is published today. It’s available in print and the Kindle.

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#FuturePRoof: Edition Two builds on the success of the first guide, launched in October 2015, which secured over 2,500 sales and downloads. This time more than 40 people have contributed to the project.

The project is is the brainchild of community founder and editor Sarah Hall. I’ve written the foreword and a chapter about developing a stronger community between theory and practice.

The book continues the discussion around key opportunities facing public relations, from convergence and skillset to boardroom recognition and the pace of change. Its aim is to assert public relations as a management discipline and demonstrate its value to organisational success.

Topics include audience insight, employee advocacy, influencer relations, tools and technology, agile strategy and business models. There is also a clear prompt for practitioners to challenge management teams more and be much less risk averse.

Inspiring conversations

Jon is firmly the inspiration for the second edition. He’s variously mentored both Sarah and I over the past few years the blueprint for this edition was kickstarted during conversations at BledCom. It is entirely fitting that Sarah dedicated this edition to #FuturePRoof to Jon.

You’ll find many of the discussions are a constant from How to Understand and Manage Public Relations.

There are some contemporary standout twists. Here are some of my favourites:

  • CIPR President Rob Brown has written about the need for greater public engagement with the European Union and in particular the UK, post-Brexit.
  • Bea Aarnoutse, Elizabeth Baines, Rachel Miller, and Sean Trainor all provide viewpoints in a series of excellent essays, on the opportunity for employee advocacy in driving organisational performance.
  • AMEC Chairman Richard Bagnall shares measurement practice in public relations and introduces the AMEC integrated evaluation framework.
  • Sarah Stimson, founder of PR Careers, and Programme Director at Taylor Bennett Foundation introduces practical means of improving diversity of employment in public relations.
  • Richard Houghton has contributed a personal history to the evolution of the CIPR and PRCA, and makes a call for improved collaboration for the good of the professional.
  • Dr Nicky Garsten, Dr Ed de Quincey and Professor Ian Bruce have contributed my favourite chapter on the power of saying thank you. It’s an uplifting read. Thank you.

I once asked Jon what stopped him from becoming grumpy at the business of public relations seemingly wanting to constantly reinventing itself.

His reply? It’s the role of older generation to inspire the younger. The second edition of #FuturePRoof will almost certainly inspire you.

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Stephen Waddington

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

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