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Google Wave, the media and PR

Integrated PR - 9th June 2009
Google Wave, the media and PR

So, we’ve been talking for a while about “what comes next after Twitter?”  Not on the assumption that Twitter will fade out of sight – its huge success suggests that it, or elements of it, will be around for the long term.  However, inevitably something else new and exciting will come along and early adopters will start trying it out as Twitter goes increasingly mainstream.

Well, we’d say THIS is what’s next.  Google Wave is a new experimental rethinking of what email is all about.  It breaks down the distinctions between email, instant messaging and social media to create a dynamic, real time medium for communicating and collaborating.  This clip from CNET does a far better job of explaining it that words ever could.

But it doesn’t stop at email. Wave has huge relevance to the media, particularly as journalists and publishers are having to rethink the entire basis on which the media works/can make money. Soraya Kishtwari’s post on the editorsweblog maps out the potential impacts, as does Jeff Jarvis on Buzz Machine, who embraces Wave with predictable enthusiasm:

“Imagine a team of reporters – together with witnesses on the scene – able to contribute photos and news to the same Wave (formerly known as a story or a page). One can write up what is known; a witness can add facts from the scene and photos; an editor or reader can ask questions. And it is all contained under a single address – a permalink for the story – that is constantly updated from a collaborative team.”

That, in turn, is going to have massive consequences for corporate communications and media relations.  In Jarvis’ future, news stories will constantly evolve and become living things.  To successfully engage with this type of media, corporate communicators will have to offer similarly evolving and responsive information, and interract with a far wider range of contributors to a given story.

To operate at the required rate, communicators will have to be unshackled from the ‘command and control’ structures to which most companies still cling. If the advent of blogging has been unsettling for conventional PR, just wait to see what Wave could do to a corporate reputation if you fail to keep up.

Here are just some of the issues that Wave will raise for PR:

  • Senior executives will have to trust their communicators more to get on and do the right thing – waiting for statements to be reviewed, agonised over and eventually approved means that the news wave will have been and gone.
  • To handle this, communicators will need to be far more part of the senior executive structure, so that they speak with knowledge and authority.  While a few heads of communications already sit on their company boards, the vast majority do not.  This will be unsustainable.
  • To earn this seniority, communicators must not only be good at their job but also have a better  grounding in business.  How else can they earn the respect of other executives as peers?  Expect to see the standard of PR intake continue to rise.
  • Communications departments and PR agencies will have to adopt new structures and skills to enable them to cope with a media that operates at bewildering speeds.
  • PR teams must REALLY understand how the media thinks, otherwise trying to keep up – nevermind ahead – will be virtually impossible.  Out of work journalists could soon be in great demand.

That’s just a starter, but it shows that the impact is likely to be huge.  Both in media and in PR, things are about to get very interesting.