In What Would Google Do Jeff Jarvis recommends to companies that PR teams should be kept as far away as possible from customers and social media.
Being a communications professional, I have a vested interest in that view.
Jarvis is right in one sense. If the 'PR' position of the company equals glossing over a public embarrassment, then it has no place in business strategy. He is also right that companies can no longer control their brands, their messages or their reputations. They can merely hope to influence them in the whirlwind of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.
Where he is wrong is his quick dismissal of public relations.
While to some hilarious, 2012's Siobhan Sharpe's PR shenanigans are thankfully not representative.
What communication professionals do is reputation management. That doesn't mean they attempt to control or manipulate a company's reputation. It means that they spot issues that could impact badly on the company and, all things being equal, act as a conscience of the company: they speak for the public and get things changed.
This speaking truth unto power is vital. The coming of social media means that they have a direct way to engage in conversation.
So what would Google's PR team do? Perhaps they would dispense with reputation management and instead describe themselves as reputation custodians.