Call me crazy, but sometime last week I felt a shift in the tectonics of social media — at least as they relate to PR. It was actually a series of three tremors, so there must be something to it. Let me know what you think.
Shift No. 1 is Steve Rubel’s revelation that he and others who’ve zealously promoted social media in PR are (or were) “drunk on their own Kool-Aid.” Say what? When the lead blogger in PR makes such a dramatic reversal, we all need to pay attention. But few did.
Check the writings of the prominent PR bloggers, including many on my blogroll, and you find scarcely a mention of Steve’s post. You’ll find a lot of idle chat about media “snacking,” but nothing of significance. (Same silence last week following the critical and hilarious “New Media Douche Bag” video. But Steve’s post is serious business from a writer who’s inspired more than a few top bloggers.)
Why aren’t the PR bloggers buzzing about brother Steve? You tell me. When the highest-rated PR blogger in the universe makes a statement like this one, we need to talk about it:
Let’s face it, we’re skunk drunk and it’s because of money. It’s almost like we all need to enter Betty Ford Clinic 2.0 together. This time, it’s not stock market money but private equity, M&A, VCs and to some degree the reckless abandonment of logic by some advertisers who are perpetuating what is sure to end badly when the economy turns. Hubris is back my friends.
Kudos, Steve, for opening the door to new perspectives on social media. And let’s hope those who disagree show you the respect you’ve earned. Let’s make it a “conversation.” Steve’s back on my feeder. You?
Shift No. 2 involves an Ohio newspaper’s decision to shut down political blogs. Seems the Plain Dealer asked one of its paid bloggers to refrain from comment on a congressional race after the writer admitted making a contribution to a candidate. That blogger quit; another followed. The PD then shut down the “Wide Open” blog, leading to criticism from most bloggers in the region (Examples here, here, and here.)
Since blogs are all about opinion, maybe the PD overreacted. But I’m not upset in the least. Perhaps mixing MSM and blogging isn’t such a hot idea — at least in matters political. If I want opinion, there’s no shortage of it in the blogosphere, or the editorial page. But if I want real news, gathered and vetted by professional journalists, I still prefer the MSM, on paper, on air and online.
Social media play a vital role in the discussion of news, and occasionally they even turn up a scoop. But let’s not delude ourselves into thinking unpaid bloggers do real journalism. Let’s leave that to the professionals.
Shift No. 3 comes via PR Conversations and guest blogger Frank Ovaitt. A bona fide guru in PR research, Frank actually wrote about the work of another research guru, Kirk Hallahan. Here’s the key point:
New technologies are not the solution to all organizational communications problems. Just because a new tool is available – or others have rushed to use it – is not an appropriate reason for adoption. With so many choices, planning must be media-neutral and involve the astute selection of channels. Moreover there is a limit to the quantity and quality of time people can spend with new media and organizational messages – especially users who have low or minimal involvement with an organization.
To borrow a line from James Carville, “It’s the strategy, stupid!”
Does anyone doubt that social media will play a significant role in the future of our business? Didn’t think so. But it’s time we viewed it more critically, and maybe with a bit less, uh, enthusiasm. Let’s dump the Kool-Aid, break out the beer, and have a realistic conversation about where social media is going in PR.
Sorry, Steve, but we can’t do this on Twitter.