If you build it will they have time to come?

I have an affliction.  I am one of those poor unfortunate moths attracted to the bright light of the new new thing. There’s nothing more I love than a new download or unwrapping a nice piece of new hardware.  However, even with this predilection I have a problem.  Time.

One of the latest online wonders is Second Life. [See Neville Hobson, Gary Goldhammer, Jeremy Pepper and Text 100 to link but a few]. It’s a new online virtual environment where you can meet and interact with other virtual visitors – I realize that’s a very basic description but it’ll do for the moment.

Regardless of my love for the new new thing, I haven’t dabbled in Second Life. I’m not sure I can fit it in.  This is a growing issue. 

There’s so much great innovation taking place, there are new services, channels, applications and content, but from a PR perspective, how will your audience manage all this information?

The modern world is a crazy, complex place. Let’s look at a tech-savvy sample audience member. What does their day look like?

  • They have a home phone – and voicemail
  • They have a mobile phone – and voicemail
  • They have a work phone – and voicemail
  • They travel to work accompanied by advertising hoardings 
  • They have personal e-mail
  • They have work e-mail
  • they have mobile e-mail
  • They have instant messaging
  • They probably use text messaging
  • They receive post
  • They receive faxes
  • They have conference calls
  • They have meetings
  • They are subjected to drive-by meetings when trying to concentrate
  • They listen to the radio
  • They watch television
  • They read a newspaper
  • They visit websites
  • They subscribe to newsletters
  • They subscribe to RSS feeds
  • They browse the Interweb using Search Engines
  • They participate in social networking
  • They have a job
  • They have a family
  • They have friends
  • They have pets
  • They have chores
  • They have interests

This list isn’t complete. 

How do we manage all these media elements?  How do we communicate through the noise?  What tools should we use?  How will our audience manage the complexity? These are pressing questions. 

Right now, contrary to the hype monkeys, people still rely in the main on traditional media, but as media becomes more fragmented, how do you communicate via vast varieties of channels?

It’s fair to say that we, as a profession, currently do a poor job of communicating with journalists in a relevant manner.  One of the most common claims is “irrelevant pitches”.  Now, if we can’t even manage simple information preference from a relatively small group, how will PR participate in “conversations” with millions of individuals – all with their own preferences?

This is a big question and one that will probably only be answered in time.  We can of course make guesstimates that tools such as RSS provide a great way of aggregating content and therefore may become a very popular tool for navigating the huge volume of news and noise – but what content will be aggregated?

In my opinion, the one thing that is for certain, is that consumers are developing increasingly advanced filters.  These filters will ensure that only relevant, interesting information that’s delivered when and where they want it, will be received and processed.

As the noise grows and the media fragments the challenge of reaching individuals will become a more complex proposition.

If anyone tells you they know the answer, you should also ask them how much they want for the nice bridge they’re selling.

To quote Donald Rumsfeld:

“we know, there are known knowns; there are things we know we know. We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns – the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”

That sums up the current PR conundrum very nicely.

It’s also one of the reasons I haven’t jumped into Second Life.  I only have the one life and there’s too much going on. That’s something I think we’ll find is a common refrain in the coming years.

14 thoughts on “If you build it will they have time to come?

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  2. All too true. I only joined Second Life because when I’m speaking or training people ask me about it. But it’s far too like hard work and I do enough of that in this life. So far that is the sentiment that is the sentiment of everyone I know – except Neville. I’m sure he’ll tell us next week how he finds the time.

  3. Hallelujah Tom and Stuart!

    It seems as if every day brings a new “must-do/see/experience” phenom that you feel on one hand, duty-bound to stay on top of and on the other hand, overstressed and spread too thin already. I blame the Segway. Don’t know why, just feel like blaming the Segway.

  4. Tom, as always you voice the reason of a pragmatist, and many (including myself) will empathize with your question. But hasn’t this question come up with every new communications platform, at least for the last ten years? I’m sure someone must have written a similar comment as yours e.g. on blogging not too long ago. So, let me turn your question back to yourself: how did you find the time to write this blog for a couple of years? I suppose, because it gives you something valuable that you don’t get elsewhere. And how did your visitors find the time to read and comment on it? I guess for a similar reason. Given the proliferation of communication channels, we all have to prioritize and/or multi-task and that’s what we do. People who are younger than us do it even better. I’m pretty confident that they can manage the complexity. Having more choice gives them more power, and there are many tools for them to enforce what they want. You mentioned search engines and RSS. You could add others like TiVo. If Second Life doesn’t give them something of value, they will soon abandon it. For the time being, it’s growing rapidly. We think it’s actually closely related to what’s happening on blogs or social networking sites, just in 3-D. Without going there you can’t make an informed decision, though. Given your curiosity, I guess I’ll see you there, sooner or later :-), Best, Georg

  5. Amen.

    I read your list and yep – I got ’em all. I felt tired and sad reading your list. I think I’ll turn off the computer and go kiss my kids, now. Thanks Tom.

  6. Georg:
    I think the issue is that the real proliferation of these channels has occured in the recent past. I don’t think we’ve ever had to deal with as much information as we have today. I also don’t think the tools to help us navigate this information are maturing as fast as the volume is growing. I have less time – hence my frequency of blogging is now restricted! You’re right we’ll make choices based on how useful a channel or tool is. However, I think it’s still too early to make that call! There’s a lot of innovation still to come!

    That’s the best advice I’ve heard. Good answer!

  7. This Rumsfeld fellow, is he currently in the dust ward?
    I don’t have a job.I don’t have a family.I don’t have pets.
    I don’t suscribe to anything. I don’t have a homephone/voicemail…
    and so on.
    But do you think I have a whole lot of spare time?

  8. I think your post is very interesting- As someone who is about to leave college and enter into the professional world I feel very overwhelmed with the amount of media that surrounds us. With things such as facebook and myspace becoming bigger every day I am worried that one day I will spend my whole life in front of media in some way- This is really sad to me- what is also sad is that things like family, friends and pets were at the bottom of your list. I know technology is growing but I still think people need to learn to be responsible with it and not let it run their lives- That is what I think will be the challenge in the future.

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  10. I know this is an old post (!) but certainly warrants a comment even now. I like to blog but fitting it in around work/life can be very difficult – those industry folk who find the time to blog during the day can’t be doing client work too. Your comment about RSS readers turned out right – they have become popular! They do tempt you to subscribe to content you wouldn’t otherwise, sort of defeating the object of being a time-saver!

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