Archive for May, 2012

Filtering The Real News From Garbage

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

The technological advances we’ve seen in our lifetime is amazing. The Internet has changed the way the world works, cell phones have altered the communications landscape, and many life-threatening illnesses are now curable, just to name a few. While I always marvel at what my kids can do with their smartphones – they laugh at me when I tell them there was no such thing as a PC when I was their age – I sometimes wonder if we’ve gone too far. Yes, it can be a good thing to have a lot of information on a subject, other times too much information, especially when working with editors, can be a negative.

Since President Obama took office we’ve seen a dramatic change in the importance placed on transparency. Being accountable to your constituents is one of the many great things about our democracy. But how much information should we have at our fingertips? How much is too much when it comes to fighting off “Big Brother?” In many ways the act of governing is like sausage — you may like the taste, but you don’t want to see how it’s made.

Knowing how our government representatives vote is fine, but knowing all of the details about how everything is planned and developed “will inspire not reform, but disgust.” In a recent article in CNN, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey talked about the negative side of transparency with regard to government. “Too many politicians aren’t voting their conscience, they’re voting to placate blog commenters, and that’s no way to run government.”

For those of us in the communications field it’s important to ask ourselves if our company is sharing too much information, not enough, or is somewhere in the middle. More important is the question of “what is newsworthy?” Sharing information through multiple channels is fine as long as the news is important. Spamming the world with news of little interest does nothing except get others to tune your news out.

When developing an announcement plan, corporate social media strategy, or building a relationship with an influential editor or blogger, PR folks need to use their internal “garbage meter” to determine how valuable and relevant the news is. Instead of getting people to tune you out, it’s important to make the news compelling enough so that they want to follow your news regularly.

A PR plan or social media strategy needs to take into account what your overall goals are and how newsworthy your announcement is, not “how are we going to blanket the world with our news.” This kind of thinking can also get you in trouble with the media. I know one editor who said that some PR folks upload a release to this editor’s website, Tweet about the news, update Facebook, e-mail the editor directly, and then link back to the editor’s blog with the news. That’s fine as long as the news is of value.

The next time you outline an announcement strategy or PR plan, think carefully about what your goals are. Living in the age of increased transparency, in many ways, is a great thing. But beware of information overload. Or as philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once stated, “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

We’ve come a long way since the Bruce Jenner/Wheaties days.

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012


Remember back in the 1960’s and 1970’s during the height of the Cold War? While we knew a little bit about the top American stars such as Mark Spitz and Dorothy Hamill, there was really no way of knowing anything about the Eastern European athletes. Secrecy, and to a certain extent, government-mandated rules prevented the Eastern Block athletes from being exposed to the West.

But oh how things have changed. Or should I say technology has changed. Sure, the tearing down of the Berlin Wall and the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe has, for the most part, eliminated the East vs. West mentality. But now, thanks to social media, fans and athletes can communicate in a free and open environment. The upcoming London Olympics has jumped on the social media bandwagon and has launched The Hub. This social media portal gives fans a way to connect with their favorite sports and athletes. And it gives the Olympians themselves a way to build their social profiles in the months before the event.

Communicating directly with world-class athletes on The Hub, via Facebook and Twitter, as well as getting event results, will make fans very happy. But think about what this technological advancement will mean for building a personal brand. Back in the 1970’s Bruce Jenner appeared on the iconic Wheaties box following his gold medal win in the decathlon.  In the 1980’s Carl Lewis seemed to be on advertisements everywhere following his multiple gold medal performances in track & field. Advertisement dollars were about the only thing available for athletes back then. And those dollars were only limited to a few select athletes.

How great it is that today’s Olympic athletes have the opportunity to develop their own brand, engage fans, and drive their own marketing activities. And what if they don’t win any medals? They still can use The Hub (as well as many other social media tools) as a way to market themselves to the world.

I think this is a great way for fans to get an inside look at what it’s like to be an Olympic athlete, but I’m more than a little concerned about the blurring lines between athlete and celebrity. Have we gone so far that the athletes and fans will lose sight of the games themselves? Will the winners be the athletes with the best social media profile not the ones with the most medals? Shouldn’t the Olympics be about competition first? How will social media impact the games this summer in London? What’s your opinion?

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