Call it karma: social media is doing to public relations what PR supposedly did to advertising.
March 10, 2010
Entertaining blabbermouth and skipper for the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen is now on Twitter. The team is also participating in a behind-the-scenes reality TV show highlighting the upcoming 2010 season.
Why am I bringing this up? Not too long ago team management would have shut down both actions as unhealthy distractions to a successful season, if not outright landmines. Given Ozzie’s propensity for making candid, sometimes asinine remarks, it seems reckless giving him a platform to vent, doesn’t it?
Maybe not. The social media genie is out of the bottle. Way out. It has changed the way people communicate: with friends, with family, with complete strangers. We are more candid and emotionally honest. We are reckless, flirty and prone to exaggerate. Our information diet has changed. As have our constitutions. We may need stronger stomachs.
Less obvious, but no less potent, are the changes social media has wrought upon companies, institutions and clubhouses. No industry or firm is immune. Not the Chicago White Sox. Not the United States Government. And certainly not yours or my advertising agency.
Public Relations is about control, internally and externally. Employees are given guidelines and talking points. Mostly we are told to be quiet. “No comment,” remains the party line in most industries, particularly advertising, where we are warned time and again about making clients and potential clients… what exactly… mad?
The age of “no comment” is over. Everyone comments. Putting a muzzle on employees suddenly seems old-fashioned. Like a chastity belt. And what good would it do anyway?
Let’s assume most everyone in your company uses at least one social network. Many of them have multiple accounts and pseudonyms. They tweet. They comment on blogs, often anonymously. And sometimes they say bad things. If an angry employee wants to vent, he or she vents, leaving HR and PR powerless to stop them.
Chaotic? Sometimes. But remember: social media has made society more open, candid and emotionally honest. Therefore, we are becoming less bothered by candid discourse, however rude and unfavorable. We get used to it. Our skin thickens. Dark secrets aren’t so dark anymore. Or secret. Ultimately, we also become more forgiving. What choice do we have?
Let’s imagine Ozzie Guillen tweets something bad about a player or his boss. (Not a stretch.) But just as his comment will quickly spread on the Internet it also loses its potency. The fire goes out before the water trucks get there. And who cares anyway? Now the first baseman is tweeting about his contract!
In their book, “The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR” authors, Al & Laura Ries argue that PR has supplanted advertising as a marketing tool. The book is (or was) controversial, partly because they were right, partly because they were full of shit. News flash: It’s a moot point now. Social Media is doing to PR what PR supposedly did to advertising! Granted, The Ries’ book is about PR for clients (not companies and their employees) but the overlap is considerable. As is the vulnerability.
Another moot point? Despite 35,000 followers, Ozzie’s Twitter is a mess of pointless observations composed in broken English: Ozzie Guillen\'s Twitter