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Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide
One of Banksy's Public Works in New York City

One of Banksy's Public Works in New York City

A few months ago I had a chance to check out a book of Banksy’s art.  At least for me, I consider it art, others may consider some of the work graffiti or vandalism, but that’s a different discussion.

In the book I was flipping through there is a quote from Banksy stating, “Any advertisement in public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours, it belongs to you. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use.  Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.”

While very much focused on advertising – billboards, poster-boards, etc. – and brought to life by some of Banksy’s public works where the existing Ads were altered, I think it holds true to the online world of communications today as well.

More than ever, companies in the tech sector (and others) are acting as publishers and the sheer amount of vendor generated content in the form of blogs, videos, photos, slideshows, podcasts, etc. are almost unavoidable. Whether you are creating a video, shooting photos of an event or just publishing your latest white paper, its important to keep in mind that the minute you share it online – your message is now open to the world at large to ‘take, re-arrange and re-use.’  This is a trend we call Socialized Media and is permeating not only vendor Websites but industry publications as well.

In many cases the opportunity is present for someone to interpret, analyze and share opinions and perspectives on your content — so the concept of re-using or re-arranging may take many different forms.  In short, the job of creating and sharing is the first step, the ongoing conversation and engagement around the content is what becomes even more important for you to be a part of. Have you thought through what you’d do if / when a competitor responds publicly to your content or a mashup being created of your content or are you even prepared to track and monitor that conversation?

In many cases, how you respond or don’t may say as much about your brand as the original content itself.

To use Banksy’s words, in the evolving world of communications, there is a fine line between throwing rocks at someone and throwing a rock WITH someone – so they realate to and become part of sharing your message.

For the past couple of years I haven’t been in a client meeting or industry event where “social media” isn’t mentioned. Forget “mention”: it has been at the core of the discussion. But in all these conversations, what hasn’t been covered is how traditional media, in particular tech press, is evolving, changing, adapting; and what this means for “traditional” tech PR professionals. Publishers like CMP (or better the former CMP) and IDG are changing. They have been “socialized”.

From now on, when I talk to a client or colleague, I’d like to make a distinction between social media and socialized media.

Of course I believe they are both very important, but they are critically different. And since all the attention has been focused on the first one, in this post I want to share some initial thoughts on the latter:

  1. Traditional tech papers have been migrating for the past 2/3 years from print to online. By 2010 there won’t be any print. We will be living in a Paperless Tech PR world.
  2. Traditional space in the media to cover tech related stories is shrinking, but new opportunities to pitch and place stories are rising in new, different venues. The use of video, slide shows, graphs is exploding. The publishers themselves are still sorting out what they want to be, still blurry on what is pay to play and what is vendor content deemed worthy of editorial sharing. They’d be wise to make the distinction. As PR professionals, we now need to learn how to navigate this new environment and become fluent visual storytellers. We always knew that “an image is worth 1,000 words “. Now a video is worth even more.
  3. Almost all “traditional” journalists (I hate calling them traditional, as if they didn’t matter anymore – they do) are now blogging. We all know that. Some of them prefer staying unbiased on reporting, others enjoy the opportunity to become commentators. But the way they get their information and are sharing their stories is changing. Some of them are using social networks to do that, others not. So, in some cases, following a journalist on Twitter can be the best way to find out about a story or to come up with a brilliant pitch.
  4. Everyone is now a publisher. Now, in the “socialized media” world, tech publishers are eager to use vendor-generated content. The publishers are becoming a distributor of information. Transparency, ethics and credibility will play an important role as new rules will apply.
  5. Bloggers can be social media or they can be writing for a socialized media outlet. How can we define what’s what? Traditional bloggers like Michael Arrington, Om Malik and Robert Scoble (I love to define them as the traditional ones!) are spending a lot of time building their own personal brands. We can call them the “brandbloggers.” Bloggers of traditional media outlets (the “journabloggers”) are not focused on that at all. They are journalists by background, enjoy the freedom that only a blog platform can give them and know that branding is not part of their job description.

So what’s the net-net? As PR practitioners we are in front a very complex ecosystem, with a lot of moving parts. I think knowing and understanding the different motivations of all the players (the blogger, the journalist, the publisher, the editor) will make us better counselors and strategists.

Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide