This is the meme that won’t die. I was going to stay away from it, until I received a comment from Stowe Boyd yesterday. His comment was so long that my response (I feel) deserves a post, rather than a simple reply. The funny thing is, today I received an email from a former student (Sarah) who opened her eNewsletter from Lawrence Ragan Communications today and saw my name at the top of Shel Hotz’ post about the post in question. Kinda cool. Oh, and “Hey, Sarah!”
f you aren’t confused, re: Farmers in Appalachian Valleys, then I’ll appreciate your help – ’cause I am confused. You see, I have never written about Appalachain Valley farmers and press releases (have I?), but apparently Stowe Boyd thinks I did.
Stowe Boyd: I think the metaphor is pretty, but misleading. You could make the case that anything that any group advocates is like Soma. I don’t buy it. Blogging is not like taking an anti-depressant. It is (at a physical level) a collection of tools for web publilshing, and (at the societal level) a social medium through which we gain understanding of the world. Not a drug.
Actually, my intention re: the use of the metaphor is as follows.
The assertion that blogging will right the wrongs of poor corporate and organizational communication with stakeholders gives blog enthusiasts solace. Enthusiasts hope and believe that social media’s conversational form will bring relief to the distress of poor customer service and customer relationship marketing / management. So, it is the idea of a blog revolution that serves as your soma. You embrace it as something that will make society and corporations, for instance, co-exist in harmony. And, you seem to expect us to get in line – quick.
I agree that blogging is a medium, but I’m a little surprised that you used that term. Isn’t “place” or “space” the blog-speak appropriate term, along with “people” instead of audience? I wouldn’t want you to be drummed out of the Blog Thought Leaders Club. (See David Weinberger’s JOHO the blog, your own reference to Doc Searls, Dan Gillmor’s The Former Audience Joins the Party, and Jay Rosen’s The People Formerly Know as the Audience.)
Those enthusiasts are, after all, creating waffle words or jargon. (See Milton Friedman.) But, wasn’t this supposed to be the movement that did away with required appropriate norms of speech and definitions. Isn’t it the movement that frees all to speak in their own voice? The implication being, if you don’t subscribe to the dogma, “you don’t get it.” I think Stowe Boyd used that phrase.
Stowe Boyd: Your argument boils down to the fact that established mechanisms of PR have been baked into law and other conventions, and therefore blogging — which wasn’t foreseen when those where codified — shouldn’t be used in place of old timey ideas like press releases distributed by newswire services. I have suggested that we could work collectively to get these conventions, or laws, if necessary, changed.
No, my argument is two-fold. But, yes … we can work to change the old laws. However, it will take a lot of time.
First, you fail to do research in advance of your claims, because if you had, you would have known that there are many more legal reasons – alone – to use traditional news releases. And those required practices cannot be achieved via blogs. I will, if you wish, go into the whole reality that PR is much more than media relations, publicity and press agentry. But, I get the feeling you think that’s all it is.
Second, I assert that you make bold sweeping claims about using blogs instead of news releases, yet you fail to recognize the scope and breadth of PR practice in the world. I suggest to you that many, if not most, of these PR practitioners – the ones I believe you care not to acknowledge – cannot necessarily reach their publics / audiences /people via blogs or any online media. At least not now, anyway. In the future, maybe. Now, nope – not all. At best, they should only use blogs and online as one aspect of a communication mix.
An example of a broad sweeping claim? How about your recent post:
Jack Welch on Corporate Blogging: Just be authentic. Be clear in your vision, and have one message and one view that are authentic. I worked somewhere once where they had different messages for employees, analysts and the press. There should be only one message for everyone, and fight like hell to get that message across everywhere you go.
Stowe Boyd: I don’t how you can do this today without blogging, do you?
I hope you realize that it is possible to be genuine … authentic – without a blog. On television, Walter Cronkite, Ophra Winfrey and even Bill O’Reilly have convinced their believers / followers that they are being authentic. On radio, Paul Harvey and Larry King pulled it off. Even Don Imus is believed to be authentic. In print, Maureen Dowd and Thomas Friedman have done it. So have Paul Krugman and Frank Rich. And you and I both know that local columnists have done it for years. In the military, Ernie Pyle was certainly authentic … and heck, even Gomer Pyle was embraced as authentic by his fans. From the pulpit and on TV, Bishop Sheen and Mother Angelica have accomplished the feat in their respective generations. Come to think of it, authenticity can be achieved going door to door. Alfred C. Fuller started doing it in 1906 selling brushes.
Now you and I may not think they are authentic, I don’t know. But we both know that their audiences – the people they interact(ed) with truly believed they were/are authentic. And, gee. I don’t think any of them ever had a blog. I could go on with many other examples, ya’ know.
Stowe Boyd: But no, let’s instead just keep the status quo. I hear nothing more than “Get a horse!” style kvetching, here.
Well, you may only hear that, but hearing and listening are two different things. I don’t like the status quo, but I realize that it is sometimes all you have – for awhile. Change takes time. It cannot be forced.
I’m not kvetching. I’m reciting reality and facts. I am suggesting to you (practically begging you) to listen to, talk
to with, the people you choose to berate (“Don’t get it“) and offer ill-advice. Why? So that you may learn what the realities of their world (public relations and marketing communications) is and how they must deal with that reality. (By the way, do you realize that Shel wrote the first book – Online PR Strategies? It is used in business school marketing classes.)
Stowe Boyd: And, oh, by te (sic) way, the idea that PR folks are communicating directly to farmers in Appalachian valleys through press releases is patently crazy. PR is principally directed to media: newspapers, et al. And they all have internet now, even if they are in Boondocks LA or wherever.
OK, I have to admit, I’m stumped to discern where in the world you pulled the “farmers in Appalachian valleys” line from, but I’ll address that, too. You want “patently crazy”? You offer it.
Are you aware that:
Fifty-four percent of all U.S. farms own or lease a computer, up from 50 percent in 2001. Farms using computers for their farm business increased from 29 percent in 2001 to 30 percent in 2003. It appears that computer usage, ownership and Internet access on farms have begun to level off. (Source: USDA report from NASS – 28th July 2003, referenced at the Pig Site. Love that name. Those swine farmers do their research.)
And, I did an interesting thing, re: the Appalachian farmers, and Appalachia overall … I called the ARC – Appalachian Regional Commission – and visited their Web site (they don’t have a blog, sorry). ARC is tasked with economic development in the vast area of Appalachia ranging from Mississippi and Alabama all the way up to New York and Pennsylvania. Their role includes developing better connectivity to rural areas for business development, distance learning and overall education.
You know what I found?
There is even this PDF file of the Information Age Appalachia report from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
Now, in there you will see that even broadband (cable and DSL) access is limited. ARC does not have statistics on phone service availability, as the FCC compiles that in their Wireline Competition Bureau Statistical Reports (formerly FCC-State Link).
Suffice to say, regarding phone service, the ARC suggests that most people in Appalachia have phones (and thereby, possible access to dialup). Perhaps +95 percent have phones. Now, that doesn’t mean they have internet service. You see, there are not sufficient statistics (that I can find – and I asked ARC) on availability of ISP services in the broad areas of Appalachia.
Oh, and about that broadband access – for using YouTube and other social media networks requiring great internet access – the ARC says beware. The statistics compiled by the FCC – re: availability – is greatly over stated. Why? Well, in their sampling, if there was only one person in the area (defined by zip code) with broadband access of any kind, the FCC counted the whole county as having broadband access. Not very trustworthy statistics, are they. Gee, the swine farmers seem to be doing a better job. Bad FCC!
Now, the ARC is doing great work. They also realize they have a long way to go. They are trying to encourage thinking about planning – like laying of conduit and ethernet cables in new construction (buildings, roads, etc), but only where it makes sense – economic sense for the developers and phone/cable/ISP companies. That’s just a small part of what they are doing, but I think you get the point.
All that to say, Stowe, your claim that news releases to print publications in order to reach farmers (and others) is “patently crazy” is — well, “patently crazy.” Um, it is the print and broadcast mediums (radio/TV) that still seem to have the edge in Appalachia.
Guess how you reach them?
Well, I would suggest a mix of traditional tactics and perhaps online – all in a strategy that mixes the right approach for each media outlet / market.
Finally, when you state, “PR is principally directed to media: newspapers, et al.”, you reveal how little you know about public relations and marketing communications. I’m not suggesting that you, “Don’t get it”, because I think you get a lot. Still, Shel has a book. You might want to read it. If you want a copy, leave a comment. I’ll send you one.
OK, I’ve been a little snarky. I apologize. I’m really not trying to fight with you, Stowe. I’m begging you to at least try and see it from other sides of the discussion. There are many sides, you know. I promise not to come and try to tell you how to run your startups.
So, there ya’ go.