Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Cloud - Home of the PR gods

god of thunder by ~zzjimzz

Social Media is a manifestation of Cloud computing.

We have used the Cloud for a long time. At its core is the idea that if you can communicate to and from a device, the computing processes and the memory can be done on a computer located anywhere.

Today there are many services which offer facilities described variously as:

” Web Services that offer a complete set of infrastructure and application services that enable you to run virtually everything in the cloud: from enterprise applications and big data projects to social games and mobile apps.

”One of the key benefits of cloud computing is the opportunity to replace up-front capital infrastructure expenses with low variable costs that scale with your business.”

Most of us are familiar with some manifestations of Cloud computing.

Email services online including Google Mail, Hotmail, Yahoo Mail are Cloud based services. Pinterest  and  Photobucket, Flickr and many other services are ways of keeping photographs in the Cloud. YouTube,  Keepvid,  Metacafe and dozens more meet needs to store video online.

Keeping documents in the Cloud is common and so the story continues.

 But there are other dimensions. As we have seen, you can use software online.

Without a programme installed on your computer you can write letters, email, essays, even books online.  You can create presentations and complete spreadsheets (with cells that do calculations), create software programmes and have the whole process done online. All you need is a reasonably fast internet connection and a browser such as Chrome, Internet Explorer or Netscape..

Compared to running such services on company computers, such Cloud services are very low cost and, often, more reliable.

As more of what we do is done using laptops, tablets, smart phones and games machines that are connected to the internet, the logic for a company to keep much more expensive and much less secure computing systems in-house is becoming difficult to justify. In fact, one might ask, do we need such complicated and expensive interfaces with the internet any more? The answer is, of course, no.
Now for the leap from technicality to Public Relations.

You can create relationships online too?

After all, what is Facebook? It is a relationship acquisition and management capability in the Cloud.

Yes, although Cloud computing is huge, a large part of it is commonplace activity we know as social media.

It is the ’complete’ package. Words, pictures, moveis, emotions, group encounters and one to one tete-a-tete are at the fingertips of mobile phone and tablet user as well as games machines, laptops and PC devotee.

If the Cloud is capable of facilitating relationships, then it becomes a public relations medium. It requires attention and study and has to be followed closely and beyond the present fashion of social media to where the Cloud offers a wider range of facilities often faster, frequently cheaper and most certainly on computers located at a place that is a mystery to most users.

Relationship data can be access on many different types of machine from anywhere where there is internet connection.  The significance of which is that the medium does affect how information is received.

An intimate conversation is cool on a phone and un-nerving on an 80 in. screen.

PR in the Cloud is already well established and gaining ground.  There are many organisations working to help client’s have a more effective Facebook presence, or Twitter profile and the Google+ PR practices are a sizable business in their own right.

It has to be remembered that Cloud computing it is not the-same-but-on-line.

Simply building in levels of security and accesses, making sure that content is device agnostic and backing up the online content are all issues that need to be dealt with.

Once those concerns are dealt with, the practitioner is free to do so much more than in the days of rigid systems.

The constraints of word processing software, the ability to assemble multimedia briefing content including word documents, presentations, video, pictures and diagrams with voice and apps is a gift for any communicator.

Such capabilities, that can be deployed for a Chief Executive, Board, blogger, journalist or conference in a few minutes is a boon.

The ability to create such content, and for it to be so device agnostic that it can be seen on everything from a phone to a cinema screen, is a dream.

Being able to use, edit, share editing and processing with a wide or narrow community,  re-use information and present it in a variety of ways is a huge saving and the content can be generated by a wide range of people almost anywhere in the world.

Cloud computing driving a car may seem far fetched but will progressively come to be norm.

In PR there is also a need to consider hybrid Cloud computing. For example 3D printing.

3D printing is disrupting the design, prototyping and manufacturing processes in a wide range of industries, according to Gartner, Inc.

”Enterprises should start experimenting with 3D printing technology to improve traditional product design and prototyping, with the potential to create new product lines and markets. 3D printing will also become available to consumers via kiosks or print-shop-style services, creating new opportunities for retailers and other businesses.”

One of the first controversial products was a working gun. The gun was made (that is, manufactured) on a 3D printer that cost $8,000 (£5,140) from the online auction site eBay.

It was assembled from separate printed components made from ABS plastic - only the firing pin was made from metal. The design is downloaded and available to anyone and caused a furore when it was announced in the USA in 2013.

Being able to communicate with 3D artefacts is not as novel as one might image. After all what are public statues but a three dimensional exchange of ideas.  Being able to send instructions to make such icons over the internet is just an extesion of communication that is thousands of years old.

Some cloud computing which is familiar also has reputational issues attached. Examples are e-commerce and e-retailing and forms of payment. Values services such as online banking are other examples. The idea that a shop can be online is pretty old hat now. But pause for a moment, a shop – online? If a shop can be online, the 'shop assistant', that person so much part of the relationship between the customer and retailer,  is also 'online'. Sometimes the experience is not very much in the mold of the personal relationship in the high street but its there nonetheless. Now, using such ideas,  the creative PR person might put much more into the Cloud.

The capability to have demand driven movies and television pulling content from many sources at will and to meet your personal needs and interests is almost there. What, then will the BBC do in the future? Perhaps curation is an alternative to programme commissioning and editing.

But there is a rub. From time to time, people will exploit these capabilities to the disadvantage of the organisation; the internet and cloud computers, although very reliable, do have moments when they do not work, downtime contingency planning is important too.

Monitoring, evaluating and managing such interactions are needed now. Today, every organisation has relationships questioned in Twitter interactions. Cloud PR has already started and it goes further than social media relations.

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