The Arthur W. Page Society presented its two highest awards today to David Drobis, Chairman Emeritus, Ketchum and James E. Grunig, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Communication, University of Maryland.

Both received standing ovations from an audience of about 200 people at the Chatham Bars Inn on Cape Cod after presenting their acceptance remarks.

Drobis credited “any success I’ve had to the relationships I have with clients and colleagues and to relationships I’ve helped build for clients with their stakeholders,” in his remarks entitled “In a Facebook World, Face-to-Face is Still Important.”

In Grunig’s remarks, “The Profession’s Store of Knowledge,” he said “researchers not only must add to the profession’s store of knowledge but they must also search for practical applications of that knowledge.”

Drobis noted that “a lot has changed about the ways relationships are started and maintained today,” citing meetings and networking through Linkedin, Spoke and other web sites. He also pointed out that “whole public relations campaigns are conducted online.” However, he cautioned “that even in this Facebook world, face-to-face is still important.”

He also stressed that “relationships built on trust are the glue that can hold such an ever-changing network together,” encouraged public relations to “play a larger role in building those relationships,” and said the corporate communications field has a world of opportunity available to it “if we’re seen as relationship experts.”

Drobis said, “I’d suggest that while you’re helping brands and companies with their B2B, B2C and high-tech word-of-mouth marketing, I hope you won’t forget to throw in a little F2F, or face-to-face relationship building. He also said, while a lot has changed, real relationship building is still the most important game in town.

Grunig talked about three kinds of public relations research: research in the profession, research on the profession and research for the profession. He praised Ed Block and Jim Tirone of AT&T for being the first corporate communications professionals to ask for research in the profession more than three decades ago. He also praised the Institute for Public Relations for its “enormous contribution to our understanding of how to do research in the profession.”

He said public relations scholarship has “come a long way” during his 40-plus years in the discipline and noted the work of the International Association of Business Communicators for funding its now famous Excellence Study that he claimed had much to do with moving public relations from one-way communication centered on the news media into two-way communication focused on relationship building.

Both honorees made comments about public relations education. Grunig noted that since only a few major US research universities offer public relations courses, only a few Ph.D. degrees are granted each year with specialties in public relations. He said this limits not only research productivity but also the prestige of public relations as an academic discipline.

Drobis said, “it’s always concerned me that we as a profession don’t do more to support the schools that are training public relations people – either by hiring their students or working with the schools to improve the curricula so we want to hire their students.”

He also said most occupations “seek out people who are trained in their professions – while our industry often ignores students trained in public relations.” Drobis cautioned that while it is important for public relations “to attract people who have a diversity of skills beyond communication . . . we also need to be careful about sending the message that just about anyone can do our jobs.”

Grunig also noted the importance of the creation of academic journals devoted to public relations including Public Relations Review, the Journal of Public Relations Research and Public Relations Journal.

The Arthur W. Page Society is a select membership organization for senior public relations and corporate communications executives who seek to enrich and strengthen their profession.