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So what exactly is public relations? It seems like that is a question professionals have been trying to answer for nearly 100 years. An effort by industry professionals aptly titled Public Relations Defined has attempted to do just that. Some feel they may have missed the mark. From the New York Times, Stuart Elliott writes:…

What is Public Relations?

So what exactly is public relations? It seems like that is a question professionals have been trying to answer for nearly 100 years. An effort by industry professionals aptly titled Public Relations Defined has attempted to do just that. Some feel they may have missed the mark.

From the New York Times, Stuart Elliott writes: “The initiative, known as Public Relations Defined, began in November and drew widespread interest, along with not a small amount of sniping, snide commentary and second-guessing.

“The complaints grew loud enough to produce a response from an executive of the organization that was leading the effort, David C. Rickey, who described the criticism thusly: “Nothing more clearly illustrates the reason why the profession hasn’t arrived at a ‘de facto’ definition in more than a century of existence.”

The Public Relations Society of America, who led the effort, defines it as such: “The formal practice of what is now commonly referred to as “public relations” dates to the early 20th century. In the relatively brief period leading up to today, public relations has been defined in many different ways, the definition often evolving alongside public relations’ changing roles and technological advances. The earliest definitions emphasized press agentry and publicity, while more modern definitions incorporate the concepts of “engagement” and “relationship building.”

“In 2011/12, PRSA led an international effort to modernize the definition of public relations and replace a definition adopted in 1982 by the PRSA National Assembly. Learn more here. Under the “Public Relations Defined” banner, PRSA initiated a crowdsourcing campaign and public vote that produced the following definition:

“Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.”

Wow, I have to agree that it sounds a bit underwhelming. But it’s better than the motto previously adopted by the group in 1982: “Public relations helps an organization and its publics adapt mutually to each other.”

Posted by Joel on March 10 2012 • Current Affairs

The Bones of the Book

Robert Moor writes about the “bones of the book” at n+1. He reviews a book of essays titled, The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books:

“Then I read the collection’s penultimate contribution, by the novelist Reif Larsen. In it, he makes an obvious but often unmentioned point: the book is a technology born of its circumstances, and ancient ones at that. Around the first century B.C.E. in Rome, the codex’s bound papyrus or leather membranae replaced the polyptych’s wax or wooden tablets (imagine the world’s bulkiest three-ring binder), making it possible to compile information at greater length and less weight. Unlike wax tablets, books didn’t break or melt, and unlike scrolls, they could be quickly thumbed through to locate a desired passage.  Students could carry them to their lectures, generals could mail them to the hinterland, and pagans could hide them in their robes. It was a revolutionary invention. But now consider the e-book, displayed on a slim electronic tablet, which can relay exponentially more information at even less weight, with even greater functionality. The proponent of paper books will one day sound “like a Victorian–era man arguing the benefits of candelight over Edison’s newfangled electric lanterns,” Larsen writes. Indeed, an e-book needs multiple pages and a cardboard cover like a lightbulb needs wax.”

Moor’s essay offers an interesting look at the history of the codex as it has developed into today’s e-book, which includes this interesting tidbit:

“The e-book is usually said to have been invented in 1971, when an undergrad at the University of Illinois, Michael S. Hart, decided to upload The Declaration of Independence onto an ARPAnet server. Sitting in the Materials Research Lab among hulking, warmly breathing Xerox Sigma V processors, Hart went on to input and share, with a quixotic singularity of purpose, text after text, from Peter Pan to The Tempest. Few saw the revolutionary implications of his actions until years later, when his Project Gutenberg—which by then had uploaded thousands of books—began to attract copyright lawsuits and became a figurehead for the fledgling hacktivist and open source movements.”

Posted by Joel on March 10 2012 • Books