This post may sound a little techy (and a little long) for the PR set, but bear with me, I will explain how I think that these technologies will revolutionize the way that we interact with the stakeholders (read: employees, customers, shareholders, etc.) of our clients and employers.
Right now, in spite of leaps forward with technologies such as RSS and OPML it is easy to get information overload, just look at your feed reader and you will get my meaning.
I Own My Data
Steve Gillmor, a thought leader in the area of attention, and others with him, have worked to create and promote an open source standard (called attention.xml) through the Attention Trust organization which hopes to help with this problem of information overload, and more importantly, give the power to the consumer of information rather than a company.
The standard promises the user control of their own data and the ability to transfer that data, or attention profile, at their own discretion. Meaning, companies would shortly be unable to easily capture data for their own gain, for instance by serving ads based on your interests as shown by your choice in RSS feeds or online behavior, unless you want them too.
Disruption of the PR Campaign
So again, how will this affect the practice of public relations? Up until now, we have worked on an opt-out model in traditional public relations planning
It proceeds as follows:
- We create a product or service that fills a niche or mass need/want based on research or demonstrated category growth,
- We lay out OUR goals, objectives and strategies;
- We segment the publics we hope to reach and then we apply tactics that will most effectively reach those audiences and deliver our messages through the appropriate channels, thereby helping us to reach our measurable objectives.
- We then, hopefully, look at our measurable results and make adjustments to future campaigns.
Of course, this process is carried out with varying degrees of completeness and imagination, but it is the basic framework.
Right now, social media is mostly a channel disrupter. For instance, we can add the delivery of messages through new channels such as blogs, podcasts, wikis and other social media tools like YouTube, Flickr and del.icio.us to our regular lineup of online news, newspapers, radio, television and events.
But it won’t always be that simple. As RSS starts to become seamlessly integrated with everyday business and online consumer tools, maybe as soon as Microsoft releases Windows Vista next year, a revolution of information will begin and tools such as RSS and OPML will disrupt the planning process as well as the channels, which I expect will continue to evolve.
While we will need to understand the uses of RSS and other technologies, the average Joe won’t have to. Once the average Joe becomes used to collecting and sharing his own data, the job of public relations planning subtly changes to require that the goals of the customer and/or stakeholders become the goals of the organization. Why? Because in order to reach the stakeholder, we will have to be much more targeted in our approach.
The PR Cycle of the Future?
- We determine the goals and objectives of our CUSTOMER or STAKEHOLDERS,
- We act as stakeholder advocates to bring these we create products and services to meet these objectives,
- We deliver the product through open source channels that allow the consumer full customization,
- We deliver information about the product/service through channels that allow customers to research our products and services.
- We go back to the customer regularly (maybe through an automated system or research) to determine what needs to be adjusted,
- We again act as stakeholder representatives get it done.
The news tools and standards being developed by people like Steve Gillmor, will make this uber-specialization possible and it will push public relations to become more of a science or perish. While I don’t expect all of this to change tomorrow, I do see a lot of the pieces falling into place, including things like user reviews on Amazon, competitive services such as priceline.com, the ability to build your own computer online, and many other “services” that could eventually be harvested to provide a better consumer experience.
What ideas can we put in place now to help public relations practioners become better stakeholder advocates? Do you think that something is missing from my vision of the future PR Cycle? Something way off? How will new technologies impact this?
Next week, I will post about a different, but related idea called the Intention Enconomy that was recently forwarded by Internet pioneer Doc Searls that addresses how customers will find companies in the future.