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.