Information overload: a public relator’s risk, but also an opportunity….
In a report here from an Iabc conference last February in Lugano I suggested a thorough consultation of Martin Eppler and Jeanne Mengis ‘s research paper on informaton overload as the best presentation of that conference.
I attached the paper, but was immediately warned by a Iabc Guardian that the paper was not for consultation by non Iabc members, and was kindly requested to take it down.
I was then (and am today) happy to be a member of Ferpi where any knowledge produced by the association is for open access to anyone interested….because Ferpi’s mission is to satisfy the interest’s of its member’s stakeholders, rather than those of members, which can well be looked after directly by them.
For many years, I have been arguing that we, as public relators, have been consistently irresponsible by polluting the communication and information environment.
This, way before the Internet had appeared on the horizon.
In those times, we were simply not sufficiently aware that many of our contents, normally and historically focussed towards specific segments of influential opinion were -for many other publics to whom these contents were regularly distributed… limited only by the real cost of production and distribution- useless, possibly counterproductive and certainly time consuming.
The Internet has of course greatly increased the relevance of this issue, and we are certainly today one of those so-called knowledge based professions which increasingly pollute, calling for the attention of everybody and their cousin, as our spamming habits have anything but weakened, particularly, but not only, in media relation practices.
The Eppler/Mengis paper (here a brief summary) intelligently sheds some light into this syndrome and conceptualizes processes and methods which help us rethink our own production and distribution processes so that the contents we create and distribute assume more specific relevance for those whose attention we really wish to attract.
In fact, at least in this case, the Internet has actually removed in relevant ‘barrier to distribution’: the economic one.
While costs of regular snail mail and printing are real.
Pdf’s of brochures and papers may be attached for free to any email message, posted on accessible and free sites where they may freely downloaded again and again….
Useless here to underline the enormous mental and psychological waste of all this, as well as the impact on everyone’s (but more specifically, the younger generations’) span of attention which scientists claim is getting shorter and shorter, as if we were undergoing a structural modification in our brainstructure….
And if I look carefully and closely at the two generations of learned humans following mine ( i.e. colleagues, my two sons, my daughter and my three grandchildren) nothing appears to be more likely.
Yet, on the other hand, information overload can be a great opportunity for the savvy public relator.
Let me give you one concrete and practical example:
John is a young college graduate and wishes to take on a career in public relations.
He knocks on many-a-door with no luck.
He is intelligent, wildly curious, well educated and is as comfortable with on line search as he is with twitter writing competencies.
I helped him along his search which went through the following phases:
a- He navigates some and identifies 100 public relations senior executives.
b- He studies each one’s interests and identifies attractive issues each is definitely interested in being updated on, not having the time and energy of doing this by him/herself.
c- He prepares a first draft of a one page note including five 134 character summaries and links to original source.
d- He invents an attractive ‘subject’ heading to stimulate each individual’s attention and sends off the page with a request of level of satisfaction and open comment to improve.
e- He receives back 10 answers.
f- The next week he goes at it again to these and adds another 50.
By the time he got to his fourth week comes he had recruited 10 clients at 100 dollars a week, four thousand dollars a month.
Not much, to be sure, but a good start.
Let me give you a second example:
my client X considers ten journalists as vitally important to the success of his organization.
Journalists today as we all know are constantly under time pressures and have limited capacities to follow their true interests, which are not always (more and more so) the ones they are forced to cover professionally.
A good media relator working with me, who knows all about the interests of those journalists, therefore begins to send to them, on behalf of his client, a highly specialised and individual service along the lines of John’s.
After the fifth week, the journalist calls to ask ‘what happened to my report this week? It hasn’t come in….’.
This is true public relations value added service to the reintermediation of mainstream media and is very beneficial to clients/employers relationships with those journalists.
After all, isn’t this what we have always been doing to improve our relationships with stakeholders?
A similar approach and solution is now being adopted for financial analysts, public policy decision makers, celebrities, opinion leaders, trade unionists, senior managers, ceo’s……..