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Ray Is Wrong…

Sometimes the V in VC stands for vested. As in vested interest. For this reason, Ray Lane’s comments on press releases aren’t that surprising. In this BusinessWeek interview, Ray Lane of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers calls standard media and press releases “a waste of time.” Instead, they should use “blogs and wikis and podcasts and videos.” Ray says:

What’s going to happen is, employees are going to start podcasting and blogging about what’s really going on in the company. It’s going to cause huge legal concerns on the company’s part. But companies are not going to be able to stop it. Outside the company, you can’t tell people not to talk about their products. We’re not China. We can’t shut it down.

The reality of how employees feel, and the reality of how customers and partners get information about your company, are going to change in the next five years from standard media and press releases – which are a waste of time now – to these other methods like blogs and wikis and podcasts and videos

He’s right that companies should be using blogs, wikis and podcasts. He’s wrong that press releases are a waste of time. In fact, they remain hugely valuable. That I place would place more credence on the drivel pouring out of most corporations whether in a blog or a press release is just misfounded. What is needed is better, clearer, more compelling communications – period. Whether a press release, podcast or blog – I really don’t mind. What I would prefer, personally, is short blogs and podcasts on the corporate narrative – and I want a press release for all formal communications.

Ray’s argument is also founded on a pretty major assumption – that employees will blog about “what is really going on” inside a company. Really? Not too sure about that Ray. First, they’ve got jobs that come with a fiduciary responsibility. Break that and they are out the door. Last time I looked, mortgage payments trump blogging on the list of things they are worried about.

Dana makes a point that I agree with – it would be terrific to hear directly from leading lights like Steve Jobs. I want to hear more from the thought-leaders and innovators. I don’t need to hear from everyone – I’d love to here more from the people that matter.

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2 Responses

  1. By Phil Gomes on June 9th, 2006 at 9:26 am

    Ray missed this one, I guess:


  2. By Kathleen Hawk on June 13th, 2006 at 8:25 pm

    In the marketing mix, PR always stood out as the most dynamic of the company-to-market information channels. You could change message on a dime, you could use press/analyst encounters as an interactive environment to communicate strategy but also to gather feedback, and all in all, you could move fast.

    From that perspective, the new online channels are even faster and more dynamic. The potential to interact, get feedback, adjust course in communication strategy and even business strategy is exciting. But all of that assumes some level of transparency on one hand and consistency of objectives on the other in online venues. And I agree with Andy that, when you compare the communications objectives of senior management, employess, PR pros, and hell, even the board, you’d be lucky to find any universal overlap at all.

    For most PR practitioners, the work involves a lot more than couriering verbatim information from management to target markets via the press and analysts. It’s also our job to refine the verbal bridgework that helps our clients and their correct audiences find each other and get to mutual understanding as expeditiously as possible. This an intellectual exercise that, as we all know, involves not just market analysis, but intense project management internally to get agreement on objectives, then strategies, and then get funding for the best tactical follow-through.

    Press release are not — or shouldn’t be — just formal announcements. They should be the next layer down from branding and high-level messaging. Where the details of market engagement are layed out in the terms that the company can live with and the market can grok. Sort of IR for that other crucial constituency of shareholders, the potential and existing customers. Or whatever audience the firm is trying to reach.

    More dynamic channels have their value too. They provide a venue for more idiosyncratic riffs on marketing communications, expert-to-expert debates and discussions, discovery of potential potholes before a wheel is thrown, sharing of enthusiasms, and budding thought leadership. If a company can become anthropormorphized, gain subtleties of character and intent, this is where it will happen. And I think that is the real power of these channels.

    But attempting to save money by buypassing classical PR seems, to me at least, like cheaping out on communicating responsibly. Not only in meeting business objectives, but also in making the big effort to distill and deliver compelling, actionable information to the target audience. The money it costs is the cost of efficiency in getting the job done.

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