Thursday, September 16, 2010

All Thumbs (and No Brains)

I read a great article in AdAge this week entitled RIP, the Press Release (1906-2010) -- and Long Live the Tweet that beautifully (and comically/tragically) demonstrated how corporations and celebrities are increasingly leaving important (and not so important, but somewhat curious) newsflashes to their twitter accounts instead of their press-release wielding PR professionals.

“The long-suffering, much-maligned press release, I'd argue, finally died this summer, thanks particularly to JetBlue and BP, with a little moral support from Kanye West and just about every other celebrity with thumbs,” rants Simon Dumeno.

I’m partially in agreement.

The deafening death rattle of the old press release is, indeed, winding down, and there’s no stopping technology, or fool-hearty and self-absorbed celebrities, but surely no one could hardly argue that tweeting your own 140 character press releases is the way to go?

The press release had a hard enough time being heard before Twitter and other mediums, and the PR industry is, in part responsible for this. It probably lost a goodly portion of its audience to a lack of discretion in determining what was actually newsworthy – or not. Add to that the advent of the internet, and the industry has had to swim even harder upstream as every fool with a keyboard clamors for their 15 minutes.

But from a PR perspective, in the longer term these wanton tweets are most likely going to generate massive amounts of damage control revenue for my industry, after all, someone has to restore their decorum?

Don’t get me wrong, I know that tweeting has its place in our digital society, but with every “advancement,” we are witnessing a decline in the quality of our communications, the beauty of prose and of rhetorical speech.

Almost a year ago to the day, I wrote an article for MediaPost’s Marketing Daily "You Think You Know PR?": my message is just as, if not more so, relevant today.

Good storytelling is an art and the public’s reality is only, for most intents and purposes, as real as how it is perceived. And WE, PR professionals, still mould that perspective more skillfully than anyone, (whether for positive or negative results).

Good storytelling can incite emotions, can make us buy triple-stack hamburgers when we're not hungry or cause our minds to create fantastic what-if scenarios. Good stories can make us cry, laugh or feel sick. Even better, good stories can make journalists pick up the phone or hit the reply button to our emails, saying, "Tell me more, I want to know." They are the reactions that good storytelling can invoke, and I don't think that's something we can do with a micro-tweet or pushing a one-size-fits-all template that's been approved by corporate because it's safe and sounds good to the CEO.

Stories and storytellers have been around for thousands of years, influencing people and their decisions. Media needs good story tellers desperately, and I believe it always will.

The press release is not dead, as reported by AdAge, but it is being "re-tooled." It’s an evolutionary phase and the fittest will survive. A ground-swelling demand for quality content will occur and we’ll be here providing it long after celebs and corporate drones devolve into 10 thumbed quacks.

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