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Different Yes, But Revolutionary Change?


In a recent mailing, communications consultant Doug Gould, president of Douglas Gould and Company, poses a provocative question to people involved in public interest communications: Are the communications changes we are experiencing revolutionary?

Answering his own question, Gould writes: “sadly,” they are not.

While noting that the “the traditional business models of public relations and advertising have been upended by the
rapid shift to Web-based communications and the explosion of the blogosphere, all at the expense of collapsing traditional media,” he adds:

…organizations that need to advance policy in the public interest should know – this is not revolution. The crucial fundamentals remain the same; we just have to build on trends of the last 15 years, in particular, media consolidation at the top and fragmentation at the bottom. Until the financial crisis, newspapers and other media were merging
into news and entertainment conglomerates. Simultaneously, many Web-based specialty publications and blogs offered more places to acquire information, albeit without the verification applied by traditional media.

Gould maintains that the changes we are experiencing are mainly “about delivery systems.” In fact,  according to research his and another firm conducted “the mother lodes of information that feed the bulk of blog posts are ‘old media’ stalwarts such as The New York Times and NPR.”

Gould also says that although communicators “now have a wealth of dazzling and fun venues in which to seed content, and increase engagement and interactivity,” you can’t forget that a “repeated narrative is still the key to facilitating public understanding of an issue.” In fact, Gould argues that “content is still king, despite the fun and excitement of the new delivery systems, and all of us need to remember this mantra as we advance public interest issues.”

I think it’s important that Gould is raising this question, and I agree it’s necessary to be reminded that the basics of communications still matter, regardless of how we choose to deliver our messages. Where I differ is that I think it’s too early to make judgments about whether these are revolutionary changes.  That, only time, will tell. But for the moment, these new media tools and the innovative ways they offer to complement, supplement, and enhance traditional communications methods are surely here to stay (in one form or another). The more experimentation we undertake and the willingness to evaluate our work, the more we can learn how to apply what works when using communications to drive change. But, at the same time, as Gould wisely reminds, we can’t forget the fundamentals.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

–Bruce Trachtenberg

Photo of Revolution by Chris.Corwin on Flicker.com used with gratitude under a Creative Commons License.

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