This post by Brian Solis provides a good summary of the uneven, messy and often frustrating struggle of the PR industry as professionals seek to understand and/or adopt Web 2.0 technology and beliefs. There’s plenty of good observations here – notably the vast chasm between those who get it and those who have no idea what the rest are talking about – but perhaps the most interesting insight is how our industry seems intent on continuing to trip on its own shoelaces. After falling into disrepute over the past decades – fostering the reputation or PR practioners as hacks, shills, thinly-disguised marketers or (gasp) something called publicists – we’re now surrounded by numerous examples of PR folks using social network tools with limited understanding, in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons. Put another chink in our collective reputation.  

Like Solis, however, I choose to be an optimist. The evolving Web provides an incredible opportunity for PR – an industry build on fostering relationships across audiences, after all – to reinvent itself and find a new ethical compass. As Solis writes in his post:

PR 2.0 is the understanding and practice that communications is a two-way process and incorporates the tools, principles, strategies, and philosophies for reaching, engaging, guiding, influencing, and helping people directly in addition to the traditional cycle of PR influence.

That’s as good a mantra as any. It’s our collective responsibility to learn about the new technologies and trends, to understand and adopt the progressive ethos of Web 2.0 and to educate our colleagues as best we can. Why? Because it works…and it’s the right thing to do. Every day I have at least one conversation about the need to drive candid conversation, avoid hype or consider the needs and concerns of the audience. The checkered legacy of the PR industry will not be fixed overnight, but this is our chance to turn the page.