Less is Moore: the rise of “good enough” PR and technology


No, that isn’t a typo in the headline. Less is Moore is the title of an editorial leader column in today’s Economist.

In a timely piece, the article says that we are now seeing a rapid increase in interest in products and services that apply the flip side of Moore’s Law: namely, that instead of providing ever-increasing performance at a particular price, they provide a particular level of performance at an ever-lower price. The Economist describes this phenomenon as “good enough” computing. Examples cited include netbooks, virtualisation and software as a service (SaaS). Moore’s law hasn’t gone away, it’s simply that “more people are taking the dividend it provides in cash rather than processor cycles.

The whole “less is more” (normal spelling) principle is hardly new – but its application is being seen in a variety of perhaps novel areas. Take software development. I’m a big fan of 37Signals, the makers of low cost, SaaS software apps. A couple of years ago, they produced an excellent PDF book called Getting Real. Although ostensibly about software development, as the authors themselves say, the basic principles can be applied in a host of other areas – including PR and social media.

Taking some of the chapter headings as an example, Getting Real is about:

Small teams, rapid prototyping, expecting iterations, etc

Build less, focus on the problem, not your ideas about the problem.

Less features, less options, less people and corporate structure, less meetings and abstractions, less promises.

Constraints forcing creativity. Constraints force you to get your ideas out in to the wild sooner.

Less mass (the leaner you are, the easier it is to change). Lower Your Cost of Change. Be Yourself.

Many of these themes appear elsewhere in the world eg Tim Ferriss’ Four Hour Week extolls the virtue of less is more ie cut down on the number of inputs to your life (e-mail, etc) and focus on quality output. This in turn is simply putting the 80/20 Principle into practice.

Charles Arthur at The Guardian has also pointed to a very timely interview with Clay “Here Comes Everybody” Shirky. In it, he makes some very good points about the fact that there is no such thing as “information overload, there’s only filter failure.” In other words, less is more.

Of course, you could argue that the “less is more” principle is related to the concept of “focus”. And just about every business book I have read in the last few years stresses the importance of focus. Trouble is, it’s easier to talk about focus than to do it. People generally don’t know what to focus on – or want some kind of reassurance that if they do focus on something, that it is the “right” thing to focus on.

Personally, I still stand by the late Sir Karl Popper when he said that we should give up the historicist notion of predicting the future and concentrate on solving problems. Choose the important problems to solve – personally and societally – and get on with it.

As management guru Peter Drucker once said: “The only advantage a corporation has over an individual is access to capital”. Of course, in today’s environment, even that advantage is removed.

The world of PR and social media thus has much to learn from the above. Perhaps the time of “good enough PR” has arrived. By far and away my most popular blog post of last year was How to Start A PR Company with Google and a Credit Card (I stand by everything I said in that post, other than to add a few more low cost tools to the list such as the excellent SaaS accounting package Xero).

So for all those folk in PR land who may be losing their job at the moment or worried about losing it, think of this as a great time to do your own thing. What’s the worst that could happen? (As Tim Ferriss would argue, it probably won’t so you’ve nothing to lose).

Yes, we are living in severely testing times – but as mentioned above, constraints force creativity. For all those working in social media and PR – stay small, lean, agile and focussed. Don’t pay lip service to listening. You know it makes sense.

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Comments

  1. Andrew, I thought this was very applicable to today’s economic state and with the challenges faced by many of today’s smaller tech companies. I do PR consulting in the US for small-stage start-ups and was wondering if I could use this example as an intro to a posting I will be doing for a web site called Start-Up Houston. Thanks! Suzanne

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  2. definitely with you on the ‘less is more’ and ‘good enough’ tips. that’s totally what i’m trying to do here with C&M… and jump on some great projects whilst others are trying to figure out universal pretty theories of social PR and social media… Just Do It is another nice slogan for now.

    not sure how all this is shaking out though right now. there’s a tonne of opportunity as clients start to experiment; a lot of dross in terms of people and projects; and lots of anxiety with the economy. more and morei’m thinking that – rather than one single service offering / company / agency being formed, we’re seeing x3 types of companies: Online PR agencies (trad PR-like, interested in making measurable buzz… like us); Social agencies (comms consultants teaching the world to say and do things differently); and SEO firms (same deliverable, different tactics).

    what’s your view…. are we all in the same business, or is there different opptys for different services / needs?

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  3. “For all those working in social media and PR – stay small, lean, agile and focussed. Don’t pay lip service to listening.”

    This has been our approach as an agency since the beginning. We are a very focused proposition – only working with B2B technology companies – and have a streamlined staff that consists only of senior people, those with the experience and skill set to not only effectively and efficiently handle the day to day necessities of managing account requirements, but also to plot out and execute strategies that will accomplish the goals of clients, something we can only learn if we listen intently at both the outset and as we continue in an ongoing PR campaign.

    Constraints do indeed force creativity. In my former life in the music business, a dying industry where budgets were constantly being adjusted down and marketing challenges grew expontentially, it was always important to stay creative and to try and get the most marketing bang for your buck, reach the most people using the least resources. Now more than ever, the lessons learned in that industry do have application in all other areas, as the market as a whole experiences a recession and marketers need to step up their game in order to deliver value to their clients and to continue to be able to sell their services to prospects.

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