I was on a panel discussion at the PRSA International Conference with fellow Counselors Ann Subervi and John Deveney. Our topic was “Critical Counsel for Critical Times.” Ann spent some quality time talking about ethics in communications and John talked about some research he’s been conducting on how ethical practices impact business decisions. He’s currently doing work for the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism and shared some first-hand experiences in dealing with the BP oil spill.
My part of the conversation dealt with “new communications” and what new opportunities these channels of communications offer us.
So ‘new’ communications must mean then that there is obviously “old” communications. Clearly there is a fundamental shift in how people are communicating these days and how they are finding and sharing information.
So exactly what has changed that gives us this “new” form of communications? Probably most significant to me is that everyone can be a communicator. Not everyone should be but everyone can be. Anyone with a twitter handle is effectively leading a conversation that may or may not be valuable to you. Think back to your early days of engaging in social media vs. today – I know I’ve unfriended and unfollowed plenty of people because they no longer provide relevance to what is important to me. Nothing wrong with that, we just have to accept the fact that the recipient of the information has much more control than ever before.
Editor and publisher duties now fall in the hands of anyone with access to a computer and the internet. With the ability to comment on stories in the newspaper and TV and radio broadcasters encouraging their viewers and listeners to engage with them during a broadcast, each and every one of us has the luxury of impacting the news.
Not that long ago a TV reporter asked a question on Twitter and I shot back a quick 140-character response. I was a little surprised when I tuned into the newscast later that day to hear that same reporter say, “and according to @AbbieF, yada yada.” Now, hopefully because the media person knew me she felt comfortable quoting me as a reliable source. But I think we can assume that in some cases, they are just pulling stuff off the feed and running with it.
Maybe the biggest change is the idea that brands and consumers can talk directly to each other and the consumer determines what and when they want to receive that content. So that “news cycle” that we all learned about in journalism school is really a 24/7 situation now.
So what we do about it? Well, the media landscape is definitely changing. We have MORE tools to choose from, we have MORE opportunities to foster discussions, the consumer has MORE control and we will continue to see MORE consolidation.
That’s the one that bothers me the most because I worry about objectivity and credibility if we have fewer leaders in the space.
And I think there are entirely too many “experts” and “gurus” in the digital space. I’m not sure how we can be experts yet – we are still navigating through it, figuring out how to use it and measure it, and maintain it over time. I am a little hesitant to attach the guru moniker just yet.
Credibility is believability – do you agree? How we become trusted and seen as valuable and credible is what we bring to the table as senior practitioners and counselors to our clients and executive teams. So no matter what the tool is, we still need to remember the basics of developing a strategy and creating content that delivers on that strategy.
So let me say it again. Strategy and content. Strategy and content. That’s where it all begins – and ends – wherever the information will land, you gotta have strategy and content. And it must be authentic, honest, factual.
So what does this all mean in this new communications world we’re living in? Really? I’m not sure there is much new about it. Different, perhaps, in that we have new tools at our disposal and we are certainly living an instantaneous world. But smart practitioners will continue to monitor these tools, how, why, where and when they’re being used and how to implement corresponding strategies for our clients and organizations that deliver on key messages and goals.
Sounds to me just like what we’ve always done.