The AMA Handbook of Public Relations
Author: Robert L. Dilenschneider
Pub Date: February 2010
Print Edition: $35.00
Print ISBN: 9780814415252
Page Count: 256
e-Book ISBN: 9780814415269
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“The old paradigms were breaking down faster
than the new ones emerging, producing panic
among those most invested in the status quo.”
—MIT media professor HENRY JENKINS in Convergence
Culture: When Old and New Media Collide (New York
University Press, 2006)
SUCCESS IN PUBLIC RELATIONS depends on the ability to communicate—
to put your ideas and thoughts across to others, to make
them listen, to get them to act. And communication now depends on
technology that is changing every day.
Public relations was one of the first industries to recognize and
harness the power of the Internet. The Web was a natural venue for
corporate communications, establishing brands, spreading product
information, and much more. PR professionals with vision and
imagination jumped on board as soon as they recognized the unparalleled
possibilities. But the Internet can also be filled with unexpected
dangers and quick-strike ambushes for those who aren’t
The AMA Handbook of Public Relations has been written to
help you combine traditional media and Web-based campaigns in
successfully getting your message out, while at the same time protecting
your clients, your company, and yourself against harmful
Here I am sitting in my office in Manhattan. But I could be sitting
in an office just like this one in Algiers, London, Oslo, Beijing,
Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Paris, or Calcutta. The reality of technology
is the same around the globe.
We in business are trying to figure out how to be successful in a
very different century. The key to this is finding out how to exploit
the power of the Internet. We know it’s there. After all, when Google
Inc. speaks, the world listens. Insurance companies, Wall Street,
retailers, universities, and industrial companies around the globe
know this and are struggling with what to do. This handbook is
about how you can gain advantage and bring your skills to a new
level and in a new way that will enable you to communicate your
message even more effectively in a digital age.
Yet the Internet can be a double-edged sword. You may have
been blindsided already by the digital guerilla attacks cyberspace
makes possible on reputations, products, and services—and ultimately
profits. Three renegades on Twitter.com caused Johnson &
Johnson to discontinue its Motrin commercial and issue a mea
culpa. The national pizza chain Domino’s was victimized by two
prankster employees who posted a clip on YouTube of a third
employee doing gross things with the food he was preparing. In no
time the offensive clip went viral, attracting millions of viewers.
Today is very different from those confident days when public
relations agencies executed proven formulas to promote our messages,
manage rumors, enhance brands, or support clients during
litigation. Every day I get a call from a CEO who asks about something
that has happened online and what to do about it. The public
relations practitioner must always keep in mind that the Internet—
where information travels at warp speed—can be a source of PR
On the other hand, the Internet also has helped many people and
organizations succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Consider how
Senator Barack Obama used technology to reach the White House.
Obama is the first president to have weekly Internet chats with the
people. Life has changed. CEOs now use the Web to reach managers.
Many CEOs are starting to blog. Think about how big corporations
are using tech to advance their interests, and how technolo-
gy has leveled the playing field so that success is not based on who
you know, where you’re from, or what school you attended, but on
what you know about using the new tools available to you.
When I leave this office based over Grand Central Station and
take the Metro North commuter train home to Darien, Connecticut,
I encounter another aspect of this new reality. Darien, like much of
the New York Metro area, still enjoys affluence, but now has a different
tone—it has become a community with many unemployed
financial markets experts, C-suite executives, and recent graduates
from college and professional schools. The jobs they lost, and the
ones they were educated for, no longer exist.
To make a living again, they have to reinvent themselves using
the Internet and then present their new selves in digital ways. For
the lion’s share that is a paradigm shift. Most businesspeople are so
preoccupied with their careers or schooling that they are behind the
learning curve about how to use the Internet as an extension of
themselves. That has to change if they are to be successful.
Your world is very different today than it was five years ago, and
it will change even more in the next few years. That is what this
book is about—helping you to adjust to a new world and to position
yourself for what is ahead. If you do not adapt to what has taken
place and what is yet to come, you will fall behind; and in a time of
economic challenge, that is simply unacceptable.
Adapting may be hard, especially if you’ve been doing things the
same way for years, but you must do it to survive and prosper. Many
people over forty are still not completely comfortable with technology.
People under forty learned how to use technology early on, but
they aren’t always adept at using it for business purposes.
Moving to new, or digital, media isn’t just a case of transplanting
old media. It also involves a new vocabulary, altered interaction
with an audience that can now literally talk back, and different standards
about objectivity, relevance, and timeliness. Indeed, for many
it has become easier to watch television on the Internet than on an
actual television. Today, nearly everyone e-mails. Many people are
now using Kindle to read books and periodicals—a change, a phenomenal
change, from the way things used to be.
Defenders of traditional, print-based old media criticize the
Internet for what they see as its shallow, unedited, anything goes,
copycat coverage of events. But they also acknowledge that the
Web has opened the door to unprecedented public participation in
nearly every area of life while providing an audience reach far
beyond the capabilities of most of the analog world.
This handbook will let you know what I have told many about
how the tools and techniques of the Internet combined with conventional
understanding of communications have made a major difference
in lives and careers. It will also tell you how you can master
this new world.
One more thing: There is no denying that those who seemed to
have an intuitive grasp of this new medium and have invested in
picking up operational know-how on the Web are prospering even
in these uncertain economic times. Like John F. Kennedy, Bill Paley,
Ronald Reagan, and Procter & Gamble, all of whom understood the
new medium of TV and how it differed from radio, Barack Obama
recognized the power of the Internet to reach vast numbers of voters
and raise money in unprecedented amounts. It’s a whole new
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