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October 29, 2012

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On Facebook, Peter Dean asks about the PR profession, "Was it ever deep? Clever sometimes, yes."

Yes, it was reasonably deep. Its founder, Ed Bernays, was a legitimate social scientist. Scholars like Scott Cutlip and Pat Jackson and practitioners like Chester Burger operated on a deeply thoughtful level and had built sophisticated theories about organizations and publics.

Larry Ragan devoted three decades and all of his considerable intellect to writing about our business weekly. And though he would have scoffed at the idea, his son Mark suggested we start a serious Journal of Employee Communication Management in the mid-1990s.

It carried six 3,000-word articles per issue, cost $199/year and went from zero to 1,200 subscribers in its first year of publication.

Meanwhile, around that time, chat groups on CompuServe contained long, intense, raging debates on subjects like the influence of communication technology, the true and proper mission of of employee communication, the social utility of public relations, etc.

During any of that time, was the AVERAGE practitioner heavily concerned with such theoretical issues? No. But the average pro knew that SOMEONE was, and knew where to go to get a short or long gaze at a generally agreed-upon bigger picture.

Now, where will the average pro go for a little intellectual sustenance or philosophical back-up?

Mark Ragan weighs in via email:

The information you associated with The Ragan Report of yore is now covered in our conferences, live video webcasts, and beginning in January, a new subscription-based training site.

However, there is still value in the short stories that we publish. While they are not always the deeply reported pieces of the past, most of them are quick, scannable how-to stories that really do help people keep up with the industry, new developments in social media and technology.

At our Microsoft conference a few weeks back, we had a delegation of India-based communicators who pumped my hand as if I were the biggest star in their firmament. One guy told me that Ragan helped him keep abreast of everything for four years after a layoff.

We now have, without question, the most influential web news sites in the industry, and that's worldwide. Nearly 800,000 readers each month, with 40 percent of that traffic originating in Canada, the UK, Australia, India, Singapore, and the Eurozone. Our sites even exceed the traffic of locally produced competitive news operations.

So while I agree that, "10 Words that Don't Mean What You Think They mean," which begins with a hilarious clip from The Princess Bride, will be held in some contempt by the boomer generation of journalists, it has the opposite effect for most everyone else.

Make no mistake: our sites are not only useful to our customers, they are beloved.

Strange, isn't it.

Yes, David. That's pretty much it.
And yes, Peter, that's pretty much it, too I remember Compuserve, and I'm still in touch with people I "met" in the PRForum.
And no, Mark. It really is hard to find very much value in your stuff, although I try often and read much of it. You sure about your numbers, because most web sites lie / mislead and double, triple... count. But you are not alone. There are Twitter forums and Linkedin forums for communicators (whatever that means)usually equally shallow. And the photography forum I follow isn't very good, either

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