Monday, December 18, 2006

Bloggers Pick the Most Notable Developments for 2006

As 2006 comes to close, it’s a good time to reflect on the impact of social media (aka peer media, new media) on the marketing and PR professions.  So much happened during the year that will significantly change how we will do our jobs in the future.  A highlight reel (in no particular order) would include such notable developments as:

PR 2.0, Social media press releases, Second Life, Wal-Mart and Edelman, the Dell corporate
blog, YouTube, Amanda Congdon and Rocketboom, Robert Scoble leaving Microsoft, Ambushed AOL/Comcast call center reps, Social Media Club, GM’s Response to NY Times columnist Thomas Friedman, viral videos (Coke and Mentos), user generated content, customer engagement, Chevy Tahoe ads.

SIDEBAR:  What do you think is the most notable development in 2006?  

Collectively, these news events and trends reflect shifts in who controls the message and how and the message is delivered.  To gain some perspective on the year (and demonstrate the growing relevance of bloggers), a group of us bloggers
 including Todd Defren Kami Huyse, Eric Kintz, John Wagner, and Grayson Daughters agreed to share our perspectives on the following question: 

What was (were) the most notable PR/marketing social media trend(s) or event(s) in 2006 and why?  

My vote: The op-ed and email exchange between General Motors and New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman

I wrote about this in July.  If you recall, Mr. Friedman wrote a piece rebuking General Motors for its SUV marketing strategy — likening the auto giant to a drug dealer.  General Motors called the characterization “rubbish,” but the Times wouldn’t print GM’s rebuttal unless it cleaned up its language.  GM refused and used its corporate blog FastLane Blog  to state its case and post their back and forth emails with the New York Times as the two parties hashed out a compromise.  In the media circus that engulfed this event, The Times felt compelled to respond to GM’s blog (which may have been a first).  In fact, it was GM’s unilateral decision to “publish” the behind the scenes correspondences with the NY Times that helped drive the public’s and the media’s interest in this incident.

What makes this significant is threefold.

1)       It elevates the importance of corporate blogs as a communications platform for PR departments.
2)       It demonstrates that corporations are no longer beholden to mainstream media to convey their message. 
3)       Subsequently, it redefines the power relationship between the media and corporate communications departments. 

Clearly, the rules of engagement between public and private and “on-the-record” and “off-the-record” have profoundly changed for the PR profession.  PR can put the media on notice.  It can state its case more forcefully and publicly when it disagrees with a story and take interactions out of “context.”  In the age of blogs, cell phones and digital cameras, every private conversation and moment become fair game – which may explain why we are seeing a lot more public apologies these days.

And it’s not merely the collapse of traditional boundaries.  Like the long gone “martini lunch” where PR and reporters hashed out stories, the days when PR practitioners are beholden to reporters to spread the word are growing shorter.  We need to adapt to new methods and technologies. The online world has created an environment where we are not restricted to a few column inches in a publication and or a minute or two in a nightly news broadcast. Even the notion of an op-ed “page” may be out of date in the limitless world of cyberspace.

2006 saw a further increase in the first wave of this sea change – companies bypassing the media to reach their audience which in turn forced the media to cover them.  The second wave which I suspect will become more prominent in 2007 is the growing reliance on the public to drive the message in conversations with itself and corporations.


Let me get back to you.

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Posted by Dan Greenfield in 13:38:00 | Permalink | Comments (2)