Andrew Keen is the author of ‘The Internet is Not the Answer ‘ which argues that the internet is having a negative effect on our culture. Robert Phillips, ex CEO of Edelman, a leading global PR firm, has written ‘Trust Me PR is Dead’.
I have to declare an interest here; I’m a PR person and I’m on the board of the Chartered Institute of Public Relations, so I don’t entirely subscribe to Robert’s assertion.
Actually he starts by saying that PR isn’t dead. What Phillips asserts is that the problem is that PR doesn’t speak to the common good and doesn’t focus enough on trustworthiness.
Whilst Robert Phillips is concerned with a failure of trust revealed by the transparency brought about by the internet, Andrew Keen believes that internet itself is a cause of inequality and injustice. The internet does away with top down elitist structures but it also sweeps away the trusted frameworks that support society. Keen described the world as flat, one in which we have contempt for leaders yet long for leadership.
Leadership failure is a subject that Robert Phillips covers too. He cites the recent disastrous corporate performance of Thomas Cook. It has been characterised as a PR failure but as Robert implies, it was actually a corporate failure.
Andrew Keen has the final word and applauds Robert’s appeal for greater values and morality but also says we must become less self obsessed. The problem with the Internet is that when we look at it we see ourselves.
It was a captivating, intellectual debate, but I’m no more convinced about the failures of the Internet or the Public Relations industry, than I was at the beginning. Who would have imagined.
I think there is something to be said for PR being dead, at least from the perspective of its scale of influence and impact. I think the Internet and especially social media has acheived that. No more can it be left to PR to manage impressions or undo damages–unless you have real people who believe in and tell the same story.