Lose a Little Control

I used to cringe when my former journalism colleagues painted PR and marketing communications people with the same broad, insulting brush. After all, it seemed hypocritical to call us manipulative and accuse us of “spin” when later they would ask me if there were any openings at my agency. Self-righteousness only goes so far, and it doesn’t pay the electric bill.

I am still a marketing communications person – but now I cringe, too.

Far too many of my marketing colleagues continue to spin and try to control their clients’ message, even though the reality of modern media makes it impossible. Marketing today is a conversation, not a lecture – it’s a democracy where all voices can and do get heard. You can’t “control” what the market is saying any more than you can control a hurricane.

Marketing today is about fostering conversation and participating in what’s being said. And although Big Media still exerts enormous influence over people’s perceptions and decision-making, journalism is also changing and expanding. As Dan Gillmor says in his book, We the Media, “citizen reporters” help create thousands of new “listening posts” around the world – and they spread the news instantly via blogs, mobile phone video, RSS feeds and SMS messages.

Still think you are in charge? If you want to succeed, you must first embrace four simple truths:

1) You don’t control your message.

2) You never will.

3) You communicate only when you participate.

4) When you participate, your message will be heard, understood, and respected.

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