In my early days of PR, this time of year was spent compiling the 50-plus news releases and product slides that went into the CES press kits.
It had to be perfect. Every letter, punctuation mark, and slide label. All told, it weighed three pounds and FedEx was God-like in its powers to ship such precious materials across the country.
A lot has since changed.
Paper press kits have been replaced, but PR teams are still editing. And some of that editing attention has turned to the 140 characters of a tweet, a Facebook post, or a hashtag.
Tweets, Facebook updates, LinkedIn posts, and all manner of "sharing" social content are starting to go through an approval process. Before we unleash opinions, stories, milestones, and success – we are editing some of it. Granted, this isn't universally true, yet examples exist. And I have to wonder whether it's a good idea.
In a way, social media could suffer exponentially from those who are working too hard to control the message.
Here are a few scenarios:
- There's a good story in a trade publication, but the company thinks too many competitors are also mentioned. Let's not tweet about it.
- A C-suite executive is going to participate in an industry event, but the company wants to downplay it, in case employees think it's a frivolous venue. Don't update Facebook.
- A company in the middle of a major branded contest needs to drive tons of traffic to a website but, all hashtags, pics, posts, and tweets must be pre-approved, which causes delay.
I get it. Consistency and accuracy are both critical. But I'd argue that so is spontaneity and the free flow sharing of ideas. Isn't this the appeal of social media to begin with?
I say we need to resist the temptation to pre-approve and control every message in the social medium. Henry Ford once said you cannot build a reputation on what you are going to do. Nor can you build it by reducing the power and promise of social media into nothing more than a hyper-short burst of hundreds of pre-approved statements and press releases.
Alicia Young is an EVP in the consumer and technology practices at Ruder Finn.