I was recently asked to comment on Arianna Huffington’s latest keynote speech, wherein she called on PR professionals to become more proactive in directing their clients moral actions.
Ms. Huffington makes a worthy call to action, but perhaps to the wrong constituency.
As broadcast news weakens in the face of “social journalism”, I feel strongly that the public has finally and fully adopted a mode of information digestion that no longer relies on “single point of origin” dissemination (TV networks, News portals, etc), but rather on network (as in social media network) aggregation of information, be it newsworthy or not. As individuals develop their sense of social alliance, whether through alumni groups, political affiliation, or other criteria, they will begin to rely on those networks of like-minded people for their information, and thus “News” will no longer be determined by corporate media enterprise, but rather by the true “in the moment” will of the people consuming the information.
In some cases, bloggers will rise to become pundits of worth (and I have no doubt that some will write from the hallowed halls of Huffingtondom!); in other cases, pre-existing news portals will partner with social media platforms to give membership access to news feeds, which will – in –turn – be uplifted and shared, or ignored by the social networks.
If you’re looking for a cutesy term, let me suggest “News-On-Demand” as a stop-gap term, but in truth that’s not really it. We will always rely on someone to find the story, but that may no longer be the person who crafts the story, or tells the story, or distributes the story.
PR and communications professionals serve their masters, the client who pays the bills. In this economic climate, few PR firms have the luxury to reeducate their clientele. Instead, I suggest we look not at the horse that pulls the cart to market, but rather at who may now be sitting in the driver’s seat.
I say Huffington Post should find new and compelling ways to organize social networks, so that they have ready and digestible access to information, and are thus empowered to quickly turn it in to “News”.
Perhaps the past year or two were all about FB and MySpace et al growing up. Now they have a chance to determine what they want to be. Some social networks will become small clubs for those who share specialized interests, others will remain platforms for the development of mobile apps (can you say Mafia Wars, iLike, and Farmville?), and still others will see the possibilities inherent in content partnerships, that offer their members value added content – not on a “Push” or “Pull” basis, but rather on a “Float” basis, whereby the information is offered up and lives or dies at the whim of the mob. If it is information of interest to the network, it will find increasing distribution. If not, it will disappear.
My rough 2 cents. My basic tenet is that PR professionals are no longer going to determine what is newsworthy and, to the surprise of still a few, nor are journalists.