The Revolution According to Richard

Coming next Monday, April 2, in-depth interview with Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Worldwide, the world’s largest independent public Richard Edelmanrelations firm.

Edelman’s Me2Revolution is the big first mover and widely acknowledged PR agency leader in “social media” (we’ll call it that until a better term evolves). The Me2Revolution has been a semi-secretive skunk works that has taken serious hits for questionable blog practices for clients Wal-Mart and Microsoft.  I have been a consistent critic – on this blog, other blogs, and Edelman blogs – of Edelman’s silence and ineffective PR on its own behalf for the past year as its social media practices were scrutinized in high-profile mainstream media. Suddenly but inexorably, the ground shifted. Edelman became the story, overshadowing its clients. And the longer it was silent, or not fully forthcoming, the more we wanted to know.

There are other reasons to delve into Edelman’s Me2Revolution. PR agencies are anxious to get a piece of the “social media” pie if they can figure out what it is, how to measure it, and how to bill it.  This is like catching water in a collander as blogs, MySpace, YouTube, Second Life, Twitter and other community enhancing applications rise in favor and then fall off the cliff.  How do you build a foundation in social media when the Internet is an inherently transitory, ethereal place that can blow back and burn you in a flash?  

Edelman's me2revolution

The catalyst for this interview was a blog spat. I wrote an appreciation of Strumpette that included Amanda Chapel’s evisceration of Me2Revolution and a prediction of its imminent demise. Richard took exception in a comment on this blog and insisted I check with him in the future before posting on the topic. Fine, I said, set the record straight with a Q & A here. 

The groundrules for the Q & A were simple: I ask tough questions, Edelman gives straight answers.  No prerequisites, no topic off limits. I asked Richard’s toughest critics for advice on topics to explore. I gave him seven multi-part questions and encouraged him to expand as much as he could with specifics (understanding that his competitors would like to know everything) and anecdotes.

This is an exciting and difficult time for the public relations industry. New media/social media is demanding that we alter our traditional practices to account for a new media landscape and consumers who are increasingly used to information unimpeded. We want access, we want answers, and the more bull that is fed through the Internet the less likely we are to accept it. Some question whether or not PR should even be in the social media space, and if our efforts here skirt some ethical boundaries.

“The most difficult barrier to entry for established agencies is the mental shift from talking from a set of messages to relating in a continuous dialogue. We must move from selling to listening then speaking,” says Edelman. Tune in next Monday for the full interview. Between now and then we will be examining some of the current social media public relations practices being espoused at Edelman and elsewhere. 

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  1. Albnyc says:

    I admit to being confused by all this social media gobbledythink, but hasn’t PR, practiced properly, ALWAYS been about listening and building a dialog…hence the term RELATIONS? Selling and one-way communications are what marketers and, well, sales people do.

  2. Mark Rose says:

    What did you say? I wasn’t listening. The difference here, I believe, is the tools we use – blogs, video, audio, etc. through the Internet – that make conversations immediate and direct, potentially dangerous or effective. The old style press release was a statement. The new style press release, ideally, is an invitation to a dialogue. The danger, as some might argue, is that we are circumventing the media and selling ideas surreptitiously to the public. You have a greater responsibility and direct accountability, and a new level of transparency. You may want to inundate the media with message points but that won’t work in the blogosphere, which is based on one-to-one, personal conversations. That can seem laborious, with no short-term result. Now that I’ve written this I realize that I don’t know what the answer is and sometimes even the questions escape me. The euphoria is over and we’re all looking around going – now what? Back to basics?

  3. Albnyc says:

    I’ve always liked “Back to the Future:” Effective communication principles transcend the media used.

  4. Mark Rose says:

    Telepathy is the purest, simplest and cheapest method. The ultimate social media. I saw “Last King of Scotland” over the weekend. Crazed Idi Amin asks this Scot what to do about the media. Invite them in, charm them, says the Scot. Amin, the charmer, does just that and he wows the press while his butchers, out of sight, are feeding babies to the crocodiles. I thought, ugh, PR for dictators. It’s no different than for anyone else. I could see Howard Rubenstein whispering in Amin’s ear as he leads him to Katie Couric so he can apologize for his mass butchery while he bumps into Mel Gibson on his way out. Oddly, I also saw a re-run of “Cool Hand Luke.” Great movie. “What we got here is a failure to communicate.” Yeah, boss. Whatever you say boss. We all have our own spin on reality.

  5. The name’s Chapel.

    - Amanda

  6. Mark Rose says:


    I am embarrassed, stupefied, and chagrined. You can call me Mark Tulip if you want.


    PS – I changed it.

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