Monday, August 25, 2008

I Don't Get It

Do you get it?

Sure you do. But do you truly get it?

Do you get it in a fundamental way?

Do you totally get it?

I don’t.

When it comes to PR 2.0 or interactive PR or the whole nexus of marketing and social media, it seems the world is being divided neatly into two camps: those who get it, and them that don’t.

I hereby declare my allegiance to the camp that don’t.

I don’t get it.

As Phil Gomes pointed out in January of last year, it’s become shorthand for dismissing alternative points of view. If the whole “Gets It” thing wasn’t obnoxious enough, it’s become an excuse for people to pretend they know something no one else does. Or can.

Gnosticism is the first heresy in any belief system. If you believe the premise, you must believe in the secrets. The secrets are things that you can’t know but must believe and only a select few can know because they have the Gift. They Get It. Otherwise, you’re out of the club. You just have to trust them on these things because they – and they alone – could explain them to you. Of course it would make your head explode if they did.

Or something.

Thankfully, this time around there are no actual wars being fought over Social Media/Web 2.0 orthodoxy. But there is a bunch of money being made.

Don't GET me wrong: I love teh social media. I Link In. I tweet. I facebook. I just don’t GET it. I don't want to sit at the Kewel Kidz Table. Social media change technology, not people.

I imagine there was similar buzz for the fax machine and the telegraph. [You’ll be able to send a simple text message INSTANTANEOUSLY to anybody who’s wired! Here’s an etching of me with Samuel Morse at DotDashCom VII! You've got to do telegraph marketing or you just don't ...]

My beef is not so much with people who DO, you know ... whatever. It's with the "Web 2.0 changes everything" crowd who seem to be putting tactics above strategy in pursuit of something they call the “NEW! marketing." That and somebody said of one of my colleagues that he "totally gets it in a fundamental way," which of course led me to wonder if there could be different manners of or degrees to (yes!) getting it. But I’m over that now. Really.

All of these NEW! media absolutely give professional communicators new ways to open a dialogue with their audiences – the public, remember them? But none of it is a substitute for what we have been doing forever. They add new tools, but you throw away the "old" toolbox at your peril.

For example, any J-school student can tell you that a storyhas specific elements:


Sound familiar?

All the technology in the world changes at most two of those elements. Most important is that Who, What and Why are constant. Technology changes but the constants are what clients and employers have needed since marcom or PR or advertising was invented.

Public Relations-ers do need to understand new technologies and where the natural crowds are forming. If it used to be the state fair or the homecoming parade, it now might be Twitter or FaceBook or your proprietary online community. Now you can build or find a community online. But you still have to involve and motivate people when you get there.


In the heady spring of 2000, I was having lunch with a strategist from Whitman-Hart/MarchFirst/WhitmanHart. Between forkfulls of pasta, she shared her vision of the 'Net.

"Why should I have to leave my house for anything when I can it from the 'Net?"

[She kept saying 'Net.]

"It all bricks-to-clicks. If you're building stores it's over for you. We'll be able to get everything we want online."

"What about all this?" I asked, gesturing around at the we're-not-really-a-chain-but-yes-we-are ambiance of the restaurant. "Can you get this this online?"

She didn't hesitate, "Sure. This is just overhead. In a few years if I want a nice meal I'll be able to go to my computer, log on and it will know if I like it spicy and everything will be delivered to my apartment."

"Cool," I said. "Do you think that would work with pizza and Chinese food, too?"

"You don't get it."

No, I don't.


Desiree said...

I think she is the one who doesn't get it. Sure you will always be able to go to internet and get whatever you want. But, there will always be people who want the experience of actuallying living things. I think that is the difference between actually getting it, and thinking you "get it." There are still people today who like to send letters...pen pals, etc. Some people still read the paper instead of the internet news. Some people use their home phone instead of a cell phone. Perhaps these types of "traditional" users are marginal. But, users will always use and array of mediums to gain the types of experiences they seek. I think in the future that people are bound to see the value in going out to have a meal and interact with others as opposed to becoming a hermit...just because you can get everything from your computer...

Lally said...

Thanks, Desiree.

I still have a landline, btw. In fact, I have a rotary-dial wall phone in the basement. Love to let the kids' friends use it. They poke their fingers into the holes and listen for the tone.

Yeah, I'm like that.

But I do have the bb &c. and sometimes I still like to go next door and just chat .., y'know ... the old fashioned way.

Thanks for stopping by.

Ike said...

The biggest red flag for me is apparent when you see Social Media as the New Alchemy.

Many people shilling. Only a few actually understand the underlying chemistry. And there's no common language for detangling results from rubbish, because everyone clings to their formulae trade secret sauce.

My recipe is the Philosopher's Stone. Yours makes Fool's Gold.

That will be $20,000.

Lally said...


Well said, Ike.