Saturday, September 04, 2004

Guess What? Y-o-u Are The Future

The future success of high-tech PR will dawn with corporations’ realization that “the customer is the message.” In PR’s infancy stages, practitioners were able to talk to the “influencers” and rely on the fact that their messages would filter to the masses and take root. The elite 20% of the population would impact the other 80%.

In some ways this is till true today – witness consumer brands’ continued affection for celebrity endorsers (e.g., Tiger Woods’ omnipresent Nike swoosh) – however, in the high tech world in particular, the Internet has created a magnetic polarity shift: the masses now influence the brand makers. It started when Usenet rantings in the mid-1990’s forced Intel to acknowledge defects in earlier versions of its Pentium chip and continues today in the form of online user forums (TripAdvisor, ePinions, etc.), stock discussion sites (Motley Fool, Raging Bull), and most importantly, consumer (Ain’t It Cool News) and corporate bloggers (Gawker Media, Microsoft’s “Scobleizer,” Nike’s “Art of Speed” blog).

The net effect is a focus on unprecedented transparency to the corporation. The technology-themed PR campaigns of the future will invariably include a component of raw interaction with end-users. This can be frightening for many companies, because what this paradigm shift demands above all is “excellence.” Delivering an excellent product or service is the only way to survive the granular level of scrutiny implied by user-level participation in the PR process.

From here on out, the people have the power. All hail the 80-percenters!

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