Back to the two-way street
After tinkering with this blog for the past couple of months I've finally settled on a name. I created this personal blog after leaving Speed in September. Previously I'd always blogged for business.
Henceforth my blog will be called the Two-Way Street. The inspiration is a slim volume written by American academic and author Eric Goldman, published in 1948, about the emergence of public relations counsel in the US.
Goldman's contention in Two-Way Street is that communication between an organisation and its audiences developed through three stages during the first half of the twentieth century: initially spin that aimed at duping the audience, secondly publicity that aimed to build awareness through hype, and thirdly two-way communication aimed at building engagement.
It’s uncanny how these same stages can just as easily be applied to public relations in the second half of the 20th century: spin, publicity or media relations, and most recently direct audience engagement.
Shortly after the publication of Goldman’s book the public relations industry became obsessed about communicating with the public via the proxy of mainstream media rather than direct public engagement.
The rise of mass media in the 1950s, and its ability to provide a shortcut to mass audiences, brought about a fundamental change in style of organisational communications.
60-years on, changes in consumer behaviour enabled by the Internet and the fragmentation of mainstream media are forcing organisations back to Goldman’s two-way street.
Organisations are recognising the opportunity to engage directly with their audiences again. But for many organisations this involves simply broadcasting content via newswires, websites and Twitter feeds with little engagement.
Thanks to the Internet the audience is empowered. It is open about its likes and dislikes and quick to vent its frustration at brands via networks. It cannot and should not be ignored. The future of communication between an organisation and its audiences must be participative.
Two-Way Street is also a nod to the normative model of public relations excellence set out by James Grunig in the Four Models of Public Relations and the subsequence Excellence Theory. Academics, educators and students know Grunig as an old friend.
Few, if any, organisations engage with their audiences in a truly two-way symmetrical relationship of course, but then that makes all the more for better blog fodder.