Social media and grey hair

Paul Seaman’s “21st Century PR Issues” rarely fails to stick delightful verbal needles in conventional wisdom. In that regard, his Social Media Reality Check 2010 doesn’t disappoint us.

As I read his posting, what came to mind was a topic of conversation I’ve been having with two other colleagues for, well, a clutch of years now.

Companies have stories to tell. If we anthropomorphize for a bit and talk about business ventures as ‘beings,’ they want you to know about them, they need you to know why they’re different, why they do things the way they do, and why they charge what they do.  And how they do this is through the voice they’ve had for decades – PR, corporate communications, advertising.

So, a new kid on the block says, “no, this is ALL wrong, the voice of the whole is made up of the individual voices of the crowd.” That new kid is social media. Reduced to black and white, it smacks of a very old divide between control (some would say dictatorial) and freedom (some would say anarchical ranting).

I have a crackpot idea that the blossoming of grey hair on people ‘of a certain age’ is the universe’s way of reminding us that the world isn’t black or white – but often something in between. And so it is, I’m guessing, about this false distinction ‘tween what companies need to tell the world and what the wisdom of crowds can tell us.

I think there’s something very important in finding alignment – sometimes at least – between what companies want people to know about them … and… what buzz exists in the many social media venues.  Companies need both – they need strong and clear messages that help them rise above being seen as ‘also-rans’ and they need to be comfortable with the new places, new players and new rules of places created by the likes of Facebook and blogs.

In a phrase: social media is growing up.

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