SAN FRANCISCO: Former Vice President Al Gore announced earlier this month that his new cable channel, Current, will consist largely of segments submitted by the public - a proposition that has some PR pros contemplating how, and if, they would fit into th
"It could be a groundbreaking effort into empowering media," said Lloyd Trufelman, president of Trylon Communications. "On the other hand, it could be a slick version of public access."
"We have a greater opportunity to engage with the public directly," said Jennifer McClure, founding partner and CEO of Albrycht McClure & Partners. "PR is becoming much more participatory. It's not so much 'pitching' in the traditional sense, but engaging in communication with customers."
McClure feels that as more outlets like Current pop up, PR professionals need to think less about traditional media pitching and more about how to directly reach out to customers who might submit a video or create a blog.
"I see more potential and promise with Current than drawbacks," said Mike Manuel, client supervisor at Voce Communications. "Current could be another way companies are opening up to giving influential [citizens] access."
Manuel sees a big opportunity in companies giving customers beta products to review for Current. However, he added the risk, should the product not pass muster, is also great.
But some wondered about the potential for misuse and the opportunity for undisclosed VNRs.
Trufelman asked: "What filters will they have to ensure pieces are not staged or put together by a front organization?"
Jeremy Pepper, president of Pop! Public Relations, said the opportunity could exist for user-submitted product placement, negotiated by companies.
"I can see less-than-ethical PR firms or guerilla marketers, who are having trouble getting press, [abusing it]," Pepper said. "If it's done well, I doubt anyone could tell."
But Edelman vice chairman Leslie Dach said honesty was necessary for success.
"[Those videos] need to be appropriately transparent," Dach said. "I don't expect to approach the channel with VNRs."
In a statement, Gore said, "We're creating a powerful new brand of television that doesn't treat audiences as merely viewers, but as collaborators."
Originally called INdTV, Current will premier on August 1 in at least 20 million households. It will be a 24-hour channel showcasing short-form content targeting the 18-to-34-year-old demographic.
The company is handling PR in-house, but used B|W|R Public Relations for its launch party last week.