When I am helping out an organization, I always start with the basics. You know that whole research, action, communication and evaluation thing. But if public relations is about relationships, how about starting with this?
1) How can I make things easier or less difficult for the organization?
2) How can I serve this organization to help them move forward?
3) What is “our” action plan?
4) How do we get the process going?
Sometimes these questions involve media relations, but most of the time it does not.
First, the panel didn't have a good idea of how PR actually helps media relations; but second is the misunderstanding that PR means only media relations. Today's PR is much more than that.
Traditional media players understand the Web is putting them out of a job, and they also know that PR people are trying to disintermediate them by using the Web and social media tools. If I were them, I'd be pissed off too.