Morte al comunicato stampa: nel futuro delle Rp c'è il blog
Intervista a Bruce Lowry, capo delle global PR di Novell. Come le relazioni pubbliche verranno modificate dai nuovi strumenti di comunicazione. Da New Communications blogzine.
The Demise of the Press Release and Other Thoughts on the Future of Public Relations - An Interview with Bruce Lowry, Head of Global PR for Novell By Jennifer McClureWe are very pleased to feature an interview with Bruce Lowry, head of global public relations for Novell, a $1 billion+ enterprise software firm in transition from a traditional proprietary model to commercialization of open source software. Bruce Lowry is a forward-thinking communications professional with some very interesting ideas and insights on the future of public relations. He recently suggested that the press release would become an obsolete PR tool in the next ten years. The statement, was of course, widely quoted and discussed in the blogosphere. We thought this was an interesting idea, and asked Bruce if he would speak to us and share his thoughts about the future of PR and new communications.
NCB: You have suggested that blogs will completely replace press releases in the next ten years. Why do you believe this to be the case?
BL: I made that comment over lunch talking to a friend who writes for the Economist, and was surprised to see it in print. But, hey, that's the beauty of an always-on environment. What I was thinking was more logistical than substantive, in the sense that blogging technology and self-publishing are becoming so easy that the idea of putting a press release over the wire using a traditional outlet like PRNewswire or BusinessWire just seems like a complicated and expensive way to do things. Based on conversations I've had with media contacts, I know it's already the case that some come to company-affiliated blogs, rather than the corporate press page, to get their information. So I think self publishing, with whatever RSS feeds are available in 10 years, will be how we issue press releases, replacing wire services. Although I'm sure the SEC will have something to say on that...
NCB: How do you currently incorporate blogging into your PR activities for Novell?
BL: Mea culpa, but we haven't really done much yet. We have a number of employees who blog, as you'd expect in a company that sells Linux and open source technologies. But we haven't integrated blogging formally into our PR program, either as a tool we use, or in terms of measuring the conversations around Novell that take place in the blogosphere. But that will be changing soon on both fronts. We plan to start a PR blog from the Novell.com press page. The hope is that it will become a more regular touch point between Novell and the media that follow us (and, of course, for other constituencies that are interested in the information). This would a team blog, and would include guest bloggers from within Novell executives, engineers, etc. It's all about starting conversations.
NCB: How else do you see media relations changing the world of new communications?
BL: I think there'll be parallel tracks for some time. Traditional media will continue to exist and PR professionals will continue to work with those media as we always have. But citizen and participatory journalism is also emerging. I heard Rich Kalgaard of Forbes recently at a panel talk about how the new media and tools will be fantastic for "niche" groups that form around particular interests because the people in those groups will always have more information about what they're interested in that any journalist could. PR pros need to think the same way. They need to develop these interest groups around their products and brands (groups which, hopefully, include customers!), and help facilitate informative and candid discussions in those groups. Needless to say, this means losing control of the message, to some degree. But it also means a better understanding of your customers, which helps create better products. Needless to say, it's a big transition, so it'll take time for people to adjust.
NCB: What about the practices of calling media or emailing a long list of journalists with a pitch or release? How do you see that practice changing over time?
BL: As media relations become conversations, this practice just stops working. We all live in a world of information overload. I know I hate getting stuff that I'm not interested in dumped in my mailbox, or via unsolicited phone calls. Why would reporters be any different? I haven't been a PR practitioner very long, but, to me, PR is all about relationships - it's knowing who the reporters are, what they like to write about, and how they like to interact. That doesn't change because our tools have changed. Sure, there will still be things like events, where you get a large list of reporters and you want to get out some basic information (i.e. time and place of a press conference) where you may still resort to a generalized outreach. But I think it's all got to become personalized to the individual reporter.
NCB: Do you think that large organizations or smaller ones will have a particular advantage or disadvantage with regard to the use of new tools such as blogs and RSS and other emerging modes of communication?
BL: Initially, I think smaller organizations stand to benefit the most, if they can capture people with good compelling content. The viral nature of blogs can really catapult a small story into a larger one. Large organizations should be able to take advantage of them too, over time, but I think they'll have a harder time trying to keep track of all the potential channels of communication employees, executives, etc. We all agree that controlling the message is going to become harder, if not impossible. But having hundreds or even thousands of bloggers out there really runs the risk of there being no message at all. Over time, I suspect the process will be self correcting and self balancing. But, I think the early stages will be tougher on big organizations than small.
NCB: Why does it seem to be a widely held belief that blogging will result in a greater loss of control than using the media as the sole conduit of the message from a PR perspective? Do you believe this is a valid fear?
BL: As someone who's worked in large organizations my entire career, I know how complicated it is to message even internally, let alone externally. In any large organization, if you ask ten people what the corporate vision and strategy is, you might get ten different answers. So, if those ten people start blogging about the company, you may get a very confused view of what that company is about. The bottom line is that it is going to get increasingly difficult to control the message, but that doesn't mean there shouldn't be a message. It puts a bigger premium on ensuring that "official" communications - press releases, advertising, speeches, collateral, etc. - are all consistent. And it puts a bigger premium on internal communications, making sure that all employees know what the company's goals and objectives are, what that vision is. I think it comes down more to power of persuasion with employees helping them to internalize the message and , learn articulate and market the vision, than of coercion, as in "This is what you should say."
NCB: How should PR professionals think about best practices in this new world? Do the tools change what best practices means?
BL: I don't think best practices change that much, at least at a fundamental level. As I said earlier, the key is knowing the reporters, knowing what they like and how they interact, and then fitting your story into something that helps them write their story. And if you use blogs, wikis, podcasts or anything else to make the process work better, faster, or easier, that's great. But if we use the tools simply to increase the scope of reach, rather than the quality of reach, we're doing ourselves a disservice.
NCB: What other new communications tools will become the most valuable additions to the PR professional's toolkit in the next ten years and why?
BL: The biggest challenges I face right now are less on the outreach side how to effectively convey my message to press than they are on the monitoring side. There is so much information to try to get through every day. With the blogosphere, that's only growing exponentially. So companies like Technorati, Bloglines or Cymfony that are in the monitoring, tracking, measurement, aggregation business, they've got interesting challenges. I think the existing tools give us plenty of things to think about still, and uses we haven't come up with yet. I mean, how about wikis replacing focus groups? Get 15 people from your target demographic, give them a deadline, and ask them to craft a positioning statement for your company. Do a media audit on your PR effectiveness via a wiki with reporters. Lots of interesting new things to try...
NCB: How do you see the practice of PR changing in the next ten years? Do you think that PR professionals will be able to use these tools to focus on creating relationships with their publics instead of just onducting traditional media relations, (which PR seems to have become synonymous with)?
BL: I do think the tools will help build relationships, rather than just help us conduct media outreach. Blogs are personal in a way that press releases can't be. At the same time, as it gets increasingly easier to communicate electronically, people stop interacting face-to-face. I work from home. There are days I see no one other than my wife. Nothing will replace getting out and meeting reporters, and sitting down and having lunch or a beer. In fact, I think that becomes increasingly important, rather than less, as we get more and more tools that let us interact electronically.
NCB: What is the promise for the future of public relations?
BL: I've only been in PR for five years, and it was an accidental career for me, in many ways. So I don't want to pronounce like I have some tremendous insight. But my timing has been great, both for being in tech and for the changes in the profession. I think the future of PR is using the new tools to personalize media relationships, customize interaction the way reporters want it, and monitor performance based on metrics that measure what the community around your product or company is saying, not just press clips. I think the premium over the next few years will be on PR people who have lived in and understand the blogosphere and the tools. It will require a lot of retraining and a reshaping of mindset regarding control of the message. But in the end, it will be a better, more interesting and more rewarding field because this personalized PR will become more central to the overall success of the business.
Bruce Lowry has had a very interesting and diverse professional background, Prior to joining Novell in 1999, he spent nearly 14 years in the State Department as a Foreign Service Officer, headed up the Ukraine Desk, served as the Financial Attach in the U.S. Embassy in Rome, and was a special assistant to the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs, providing policy advice and political and economic analysis on G-7, EU, Middle East, and African economic developments. He also served in the State Department's Office of European Union and Regional Affairs; and was staff assistant to the Assistant Secretary for Economic and Business Affairs. In the 80's he did a stint in the political/economic office in Mbabane, Swaziland and was a consular officer in Saudi Arabia.