Losing sight of the basics in PR


For all the general noise about the potential of PR 2.0 – blogging, vlogging, podcasting, etc – two recent posts from very different ends of the spectrum suggest we’ve all lost sight of the wood for the trees.

First, up is Andrew Brown at The Guardian with his piece entitled: This article is not available as a podcast or videoblog.

He compares and contrasts information compression between the written word and audio/video:

"So if I want to absorb something complicated quickly – or even, when
I need to do so, slowly – the efficient way to help me is to write it
out first. When you think of it, the time compression between reading
and writing is quite astonishing: the thriller that lasts for half a
plane journey will have taken half a year to write. Even The 39 Steps,
which John Buchan is supposed to have written in a fortnight while
convalescing, takes only a couple of hours to read.

By contrast,
audio and video are not lossy compression. They are lossy expansion.
They take more time to convey less meaning. There are some things which
print cannot easily – or at all – convey, and which sound and pictures
can. But there are surprisingly few of them. Just for an experiment,
try listening to the television news while not watching the pictures.
You will be just as well informed and half your attention has been
freed for other things. You will also notice – without the distractions
– that hardly anything of any interest has been said at all. If you
just read a transcript of what has been said, you will have learned
even more, and in even less time."

In other words, most of the material flying out of the PR 2.0 tool box currently should probably have been left as plain old text. Or perhaps not even said at all.

On a related theme, via Strumpette, Loren Feldman, President of 1938 Media  presents a very, er, forceful case for What’s Wrong With PR Today. His simple message is that for all the cheaply available technology available to produce video clips, podcasts, etc, 99.9pc of the content is rubbish. Creating a compelling audio broadcast, or editing a video brings with it a skill set that most current practitioners don’t possess. "Editing is an art", he says. Robert Scoble is singled out as a prime example of the tech heavy amateur.

And he has a point – witness the number of print technology journalists who are now being asked to do podcasts or appear as web TV presenters – with all due respect to them, most don’t cut the mustard – either because they’ve had no training to do it – or with the best will in the world, they have a voice or face for print.

And the same applies to PR – hence why so much of the material being produced doesn’t hit the mark – though mainly due to Andrew Brown’s argument that it doesn’t expand meaning in a valuable way compared to the time to create or express it". As he says:

"The point of an advertisement, however, as of almost everything else
that is published in journalism, is that it can all be boiled down to a
couple of sentences. With an advertisement, the essential message is
only ever two words long: "Buy this."

Replace advertisement with press release or PR and the point remains the same.

PR needs to get back to the basics of focussing on developing meaningful and valuable messages and content – and using the appropriate tools to do the best job – which doesn’t always mean defaulting to a microphone or webcam.

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Comments

  1. I totally agree with Andrew Brown. I’m always amazed that people think podcasts and online videos are going to get their message across to more people – surely you lose a huge proportion of the audience just by asking them to click on or download something extra. Podcasts and videos should supplement the written word, not replace it.

    But then as a copywriter I’ve always been biased towards the written word as the fastest and most effective way to communicate online, so I would say that, wouldn’t I?

    Like

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