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January 24, 2009


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What a guy! And you're right -- what a shocking and entertaining contrast in styles and world views. After listening to that interview, I have an uncontrollable urge to hob knob.

I used to deal directly with Jack back in my LexisNexis days, routinely coming in contact with him when speaking at PRSA and Counselor's Academy conferences. Even went to his offices once which, appropriately it seemed, were situated over an Irish pub.

When I saw that Shel and Neville were going to interview Jack I knew it would be entertaining and envisioned an exchange pretty much how it played out. Your characterization is pretty much dead on.

It just goes to illustrate that despite the adoption of the PR community to interactive communications, social media, Web 2.0, etc., there is still a long way to go. I also suspect this mirrors the state of other industries as well.

Yes, you're right Craig, a long way to go.

But aren't you also a little startled by the loss Jack feels, from days when the "press" as he quaintly calls it actually had relationships with PR counterparts in the companies they covered?

That the "press" has nearly disappeared doesn't make it any less troubling that companies no longer employ serious people (I can name four of these people, just from AT&T lore: Chet Burger, Carole Howard, Wilma Mathews and Burke Stinson) who are willing to thoughtfully engage journalists and serious industry bloggers intimately, substantively and over the long haul.

I know Jack's point looks dusty and smells musty. But I appreciate and agree with his basic implication that we have lost any semblance of serious brokerage of ideas between society and the big institutions that influence society so profoundly.

I'm sorry boys, but Twitter doesn't cut it.

I agree, although I am not surprised. For those of us who came of age "BI" (before internet) we can recall when establishing strong professional, ethical relationships was the way - indeed the only way - to practice public relations.

When I worked for a public relations agency a large part of my work involved routinely connecting with key journalists/editors that covered my client's industries whether I was working on a client story or not. I remember once feeding the editor for Ohio Business Magazine a number of (non competitive) story leads I knew of that didn't specifically relate to my or our agency clients. This editor paid back the favor by contacting me whenever they were working on a story to see if I had any clients that could/would like to contribute.

This resulted once in our achieving a cover story for one of my clients, as well as three other agency client articles in one month.

Sadly I fear, this type of relationship building isn't being taught or practiced much in today's age. Twitter, .et .al, is great to stay in touch and communicate but is so much more valuable & powerful if there is a mutual relationship of respect that has been built first. But I think the deficiency goes both ways. How many reporters/editors these days want to do the leg work building a relationship with a company/agency PR professional if they don't have an immediate story they are working on?


Absolutely right, Craig, re. the two-way street. Both sides of the communication equation have been gutted of what each needs in order to interact meaningfully: thoughtful people with time to build and maintain relationships.

I think we are currently in a sort of Sargasso Sea that lies in between the old, physically networked society, and the wired one that is just being born. In the future, thoughtful people will be able to build and maintain relationships even though they don't have a lot of time, because the network will do all the legwork for them so all they'll have to do is the hob knobbing. (Is Twitter the modern equivalent of hob knobbing?)

This is happening already, on a very primitive scale, when Facebook and Linkedin point out people who I may know, and Apple's Genius button draws on its deep knowledge of the listening habits of millions to tell me what songs in my own music collection will go well together.

I share Jack's sense of loss, but also buy into Shel and Neville's vision of the future. The problem, I fear, is that my generation won't be able to enjoy the full benefits because they are probably at least a decade or two away. In the meantime there is going to be a lot of drifting and fumbling about.

"In the future, thoughtful people will be able to build and maintain relationships even though they don't have a lot of time, because the network will do all the legwork for them so all they'll have to do is the hob knobbing."

Really meaningful relationships take time to build--no shortcuts. Time spent understanding conversational rhythms, seasonal moods and situational behavior. So while these social networks can help keep us posted on one another's daily trivia in between visits, I'm just afraid real human relationships, at least the kind that feed my soul, are more tactile than anything Steve Jobs can help me achieve.

Why do I keep quoting Kurt Vonnegut lately?

"Electronic communities build nothing. You wind up with nothing. We are dancing animals. How beautiful it is to get up and go out and do something. We are here on Earth to fart around. Don't let anybody tell you different."

And yet online communities can create the impendence that can lead to the forging of personal relationships. Many of us have had the experience of developing a "virtual connection" that when a personal meeting does finally take place we, in a sense already "know" one another.

Back in CompuServe's PRSIG/IABC Hyperspace heyday I routinely interacted online with professionals all over the world and got to know them very well despite never meeting or talking to them personally. Then one memorable day after giving a speech in NYC I was approached by a man who said, "Hi, I am 1234,567," (his CompuServe ID number).

I immediately recognized that it as Michael Rudnick's online identity and we fell into a conversation reminiscent of two old friends who were reunited after a long absence apart. Michael and I became fast friends that may not have occurred without the benefit of the online connection preceding that initial meeting.

This experience has played out numerous times over the years and now seems somewhat second nature and not that remarkable.

That's a pretty good assessment of our conversation with Jack O'Dwyer, David, thanks.

I would say, though, that interviewing Jack was one of the most entertaining and, frankly, enjoyable conversations I've had about PR in a long time.

I liked his convictions, unwavering as they are. Quite refreshing.

That's not to say that I think Jack is spot on with his firmly held views about, eg, what PR is and where it's going. I don't agree with him at all but I recognize where he's coming from.

Still, an enjoyable and memorable conversation all the same.

Wow, Craig, PRSIG/IABC Hyperspace - that brings back some memories. I even remember my CIS ID: 100015,633.

Oh the simplicity of the past ;)


Kind of freaky what we retain in our memory banks isn't it Neville?

76346,627 here. (Funny how we remember these id's, even though we haven't used them in years.)

Honestly, I don't think PR has been mostly about answering press questions since well before the arrival of the Internet. The press isn't PR's only constituency and hasn't been since about the time Bernays was hawking Lucky Strikes.

Shel, I agree with you of course, but PR people should AT LEAST be ready, willing and EAGER to answer the press's questions (or the questions of any asshole with the power to publish).

However--with all the gizmos, strategies, paradigms and platforms--they're not.

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