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Il dopo-blog: ripensare le relazioni pubbliche?

20/07/2004

Nei giorni scorsi si è svolta la settimana globale dei Pr bloggers. Moltissimi i pezzi di grande interesse messi in Rete. Eccone uno, di Trevor Cook:

Re-thinking PR
July 12, 2004Each new technology re-shapes our world. The great historian Braudel said that France was created by the railroad, as was the USA. Telephones destroyed distance even more. Radio created the idea of the ‘audience at home'. TV created, or accelerated the creation, of mass markets – changing journalism, politics and marketing forever. What will blogs do? We have some inclinations but I think it is still far too early to tell with any real clarity and certainty. But we do know that the world of PR will be turned upside down over the next few years as we re-invent ourselves in response to this awe-inspiring new phenomenon.In the past year or two, blogging has already achieved a remarkable prominence. Everyday, a google alert brings me articles about blogging in the mainstream media. Many of these are still introductory and almost apologetic. Some are attacks on blogging by ‘concerned' journalists. Concerned mostly about the sheer numbers of blogs and the millions of unedited posts that appear on them each day. This flow of information and opinion is unprecedented in human history. The potential for misinformation is disturbing for some people (especially politicians, corporations and others in the public spotlight) but the liberating effects are far more significant.For a long time, our democratic societies have been constrained by the fact that we have relatively few media outlets and that very few people ever have any opportunity to participate in the debates that go on in those media forums.Public Relations, as we understand it today, has grown up in this environment – it is largely a by-product of it - and is literally a mirror image of the mainstream media problem; which we might call the ‘restricted access' problem. We largely practice PR with the purpose of helping our clients get through those restrictions (with reputations unscathed), and to derive maximum impact from promoting their messages to the mainstream media's ‘captured' audiences (leveraging off the media's authority to secure invaluable third-party endorsement).Many of us in PR have grown tired of this insiders game and blogging will help us, and our clients wean, ourselves off this incestuous dependence on the mainstream media.Blogging is different from other mediums because it collapses the distinction between producer and consumer. Bloggers and blog readers are essentially the same people. Instead of largely passive audiences, complex webs of online communities and conversations are being created.Intervening, and influencing, these communities and conversations, will require different skills, techniques, protocols and strategies. Up until now, ‘feedback' has been the poor cousin of PR, which has been mostly concerned with the disciplined download of cleverly-crafted, and tightly-controlled, messages.Bloggers love the new medium for all the reasons that make it a scary prospect for traditional PR and old-style journalists. Blogging emphasises ‘authentic voice' and genuine interaction – it can be fast, rough and unpredictable, a bit like the real world as it is lived by real people. This is very different to what currently passes for communication in the worlds of business and politics.The ease, power and popularity of blogging is already challenging the media's centrality, and consequently its importance. Even in these early days, we are seeing a growth in direct communication with stakeholders by organisations and the use of blogs to raise the level of media accountability to unprecedented levels.The decline in the media's centrality and authority is a double-edged sword for PR practitioners. It gives us the capacity to go around the narrow media gateway and develop richer more robust relationships with our stakeholders.The decline in the media's centrality also means that PR will become less synonymous with media relations. PR has too often meant getting stuff in the newspapers (and on Radio and TV), often to supplement and enhance advertising.For instance, many people are getting more of their information filtered through blogs. This means that they read the blogger's take on the article before they click-through to the article. Our messages now have to ‘get through' the journalist and then through the bloggers who link to it.Blogging also provides complex instantaneous feedback networks of extraordinary power. PR practitioners will have to be plugged into these networks and be able to participate in them on terms set by bloggers. Not easy, given that most of us tend towards the ‘control-freak' end of the spectrum.Word-of-mouth has always been the best marketing tool, by a long way. Viral marketing, in recent years, has built on word-of-mouth. But blogging takes it into a whole new dimension.Recently, before I bought an iPod, I found myself not only asking my next door neighbour about his experience with the product, I also checked around the blogosphere to check the reality was living up to the hype. I'll be doing this with a lot of purchases in the future, I think.But how do we – as PR practitioners - influence bloggers? The answer I think will be as old as PR itself. It's about relationships, stupid. Our clients will have to build reputations for honesty and openness and show a willingness to mix it in the marketplace of ideas on a far more equal footing than ever before.That could really put PR at the heart of the organisation, as an essential part of what every organisation does. Now that is exciting.

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