Friday, March 31, 2006

The Digital Tsunami.

In Public Relations, there is a numb minded and numb sculled refusal to acknowledge that digits are demanding attention and are dangerous too. They are demanding PR attention and are really dangerous. I began to explain this comment in a post to Richard Baileys' blog and continue here.
The member/employers/students of the CIPR, Companies and institutions and the PR teaching institutions will wake up one morning this year to find that everyday use of the Internet will mean dismissal of colleagues. It may be even worse, it may be you, or, worse still, everyone in your establishment.

It is now so clear, I can hear the roar.

No doubt the Universities and training agencies that run PR courses now have a lecture that says 'This is the most common reason for Ministers of the crown to get sacked'; 'This is the most common reason people don't trust on-line banking'; 'This is the most common reason for brand attack'....

The Big Digital Wave did for Jo Moore, switched off Barclays on-line banking for days and rubbished Kryptonite. All three were PR issues. They were just unlucky to be patting sand castles beside the digital waters and are among early casualties. So far, only a few have been affected. I mean a few hundred companies. A few tens of thousands of people. Some companies are surviving and some died.

There are three big PR online issues: Agency, Transparency and Porosity around which all other PR activity has to focus: analysis of the public sphere/culture, corporate culture, risk management; relationship planning, engagement in the long conversation and change.

Tax avoidance and the billion dollar deal

Stamford Advocate reports that Diageo's under reported assets by 20% which avoided paying local taxes. This new broke as Diageo launched a $ billion securities note on the same day.
This is one of the most respected companies in the world apparently fiddling its taxes.

The above is true. Global news, global reporting, and a computer juxtaposed these two stories for me and I just reported what I saw. Its dangerous, it could cost jobs. The Digital Tsunami could make even a Big Beast shake to its foundations.

This is not the only story of this nature in this hour.

I have not seen a response in the publications that broke the story or online yet. I don't expect to. No one has responsibility for monitoring and evaluation news in near real time at Diageo.

So here we see Internet agency at work. People and machines re-purposing content. People can monitor the news across the globe, but companies don't. Why not? Here is the unmediated news about
Weber Shandwick and here is the mediated news about the company. These two hyperlinks update all day and every day and can be made into a daily email alert or RSS feed. What you see now will be an update of waht I saw when I wrote this. Its automatic. You can summarise any web page and blog it automatically. You can have news delivered in summaries, and you can have it delivered so that you can mash it yourself. You can even get your own news as a podcast.

If I know this, so do other people and they grow in number every day. They are now part of a long conversation that organisations can only join. The companies can no longer dominate.

How un-gullible can the public get

Media coverage is (fortunately) not always taken at face value and now that the whole
media relations process is available on-line and for anyone to use, it is now disintermediated. That is, the customer can access both to the content and the means for interpreting, changing and distributing the content without recourse to anyone. Both the media and the press office can be left out of the loop. But, many professional PR and media types ask: who bothers? And, you need to be an expert. Well anyone who is motivated to do so can do it. Or put another way, if you upset someone, they will learn fast.

The media and media relations are now laid bare. There is no longer mystery and magic. To be a publisher,
get a blog. If you want to be a broadcaster get a copy of Audacity. If you want to create your own TV station use your cell phone. To create resources, build a wiki. Getting initial hands-on experience is not hard.

When we predicted this in the 90's, there was evidence of transparency in companies through web sites (e.g. publishing of prices online suddenly made competitive prices transparently available to all), we began to explian the consequences. The paper 'Blazing Netshine on the Value Chain' was far to far ahead of its time. Today, its too late.

Today, transparency shows the whole process. There is no longer a 'supply chain' there is access to all of its components.

With more moves to make companies transparent after a failure of corporate governance based on cultural, as opposed to legislative norms (
according to this FT article), there will be more corporate transparency. Citizen conversations are becoming the norm. The travails at Volkswagen, the disastrous reshaping of Vivendi by Jean-Marie Messier, even the Parmalat and Ahold affairs: all came years after the arrival of national codes and in spite of a degree of corporate revision to satisfy the code's requirements. Now, there is to be EU directives. In this case it's the legislator getting there ahead of the blogger but only by a short head.

So transparency, both because all the tools are available to the public and because there is a legislative move for more of it is a big issue.

Leaking like a sieve

We know a lot about
the private conversations between President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in the days leading up to the attack on Iraq. It seems you can't keep anything secret and so we find that the details of the inner workings of Nintendo's new console, the Revolution, have been leaked. Many people in Happy Valley-Goose Bay are troubled by a leaked memo from Canada's top general that recommends turning the Goose Bay air base into a civilian airport. Students say university administrators betrayed an unofficial alliance by sending the government a private memo proposing a major hike in tuition. The memo to the province was not meant for public consumption, but when student leaders were leaked a copy, the proposals left them aghast. ... Its easy to see how Internet porosity now makes confidential information available both to people with an immediate interest and people less affected. The leak is available round the world with damaging implications.

Jo Moore email was not a one off. Porosity is with us all and the consequences include the sack and resignations.

The Big Digital Wave has already had a major effect but it has hardly begun.

The big deal now is how we work at analysis of the public sphere/culture, understand and optimise corporate culture, work through risk and opportunity management; develop techniques for relationship planning, engagement in the long conversation and change ourselves and our organisations.

Picture: Tsunami