Don’t miss the boat, but don’t forget about the passengers

Yesterday I attended the Critical Issues Forum, put on by the Council of PR Firms. The event was designed to foster a dialogue on strategies...

Yesterday I attended the Critical Issues Forum, put on by the Council of PR Firms. The event was designed to foster a dialogue on strategies for PR in the new media age. Kathy Cripps tells me that the event will be available as a podcast soon, presumably through the Council's Web site.

The morning session was dominated by the eight "table hosts" invited to offer five minutes on the world as we know it. None of the speakers were PR people, and the group included Suzanne Vranica from the Wall Street Journal, Ed Keller, author of The Influentials, and Ed Schlossberg, founder of ESI Design.

Though in theory there was supposed to be a lot of dialogue going on during this session, in fact most speakers have little concept of the term "five minutes" (as I well know from personal experience). That's kind of a shame, because there were clearly some potent thoughts bubbling away in the minds of attendees, and only a small portion of them found a good outlet in the lunch that followed.

But a critical point emerged loud and clear, and it was well worth the price of admission (ok, I got in free, but still...). That is, stop talking about the blogs, the podcasts, the vlogs, and Second Life, and start focusing on what these technologies are telling us about how the world is changing. It is no longer a one-way world, where people are marketed to, at, and for - and that's not because of a cool website.

Aedhmar Hynes, CEO of Text 100 was particularly eloquent on that point during the morning session - pointing out that technology is not driving change, people are - particularly the so-called digital natives.

The PR industry is in danger of focusing on the platforms, while failing to recognize what they truly signify. One person in the first session lamented that in a recent CEO survey, few of the business leaders reported that they read blogs regularly. Well, don't they have better things to do than sit around reading blogs? Sure, they need to know what's being said about them. But hopefully they are spending more of their time focusing on the implications of these channels.

Clearly this is going on, based on the results of our own CEO survey, which comes out on Monday. Few CEOs are blogging, few even consider blogs or new media to be of huge worry, per se. But are they focusing time and money on their companies' digital strategies? You bet your sweet wiki.

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