Werner Heisenberg is pulled over by a policeman while driving on the highway. The cop gets out of his car, walks towards Heisenberg’s window, and motions for the famous physicist to wind the window down. He complies. The policeman asks ‘Do you know what speed you were driving at, sir?’, to which Heisenberg responds ‘No, but I knew exactly where I was.’
I am very much enjoying Paul Gillin’s new book “Secrets of Social Media Marketing”. I’ll write a full review shortly, but I was inspired by the leadoff quote in chapter one, from A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter & Gamble:
The more in control we are, the more out of touch we become. But the more willing we are to let go a little, the more we’re finding we get in touch with consumers.
Being a science nerd, I was struck by the similarities of this to Heisenberg’s uncertainty principal, which essentially states that the more precisely you know a particle’s position, the less precisely you can know its momentum.
Media training has been part of my job for about 8 years now, and boy has it changed. Anybody who’s still trying to sell the control paradigm is selling snake oil. Even old school PR master Apple can’t keep the genie in the bottle when it comes to secret projects and bad news (though the news has been good lately).
Here’s what I wrote way back in 2006 while at Topaz (emphasis mine):
It’s clear that companies are learning to give up control. Our media training slides, for instance, don’t talk about controlling the conversation any more. Richard Edelman stressed this issue of control at the last Syndicate show, and most PR agencies, if they haven’t fully embraced social media, are definitely talking about blogs and how they change the corporate conversation. A few of them are taking a stab at podcasting and even video.
Those who remain staunch supporters of the old “command and control” model of PR will ultimately either adapt or die. Forget “disruptive technology:” In astronomical/geological terms, social media is what you would call an ELE (Extinction-Level Event, pronounced “Ellie”).
I used to think that there was room for tradition. But the more I work in social media, the more I see all media heading in this direction. Yes there’s still plenty of room for good media training and good messaging. But if you don’t prepare your company or your clients for this, it will be your loss–look out for that fireball.
Folks, as Paul Gillin so deftly states in his opening chapter, bad news isn’t always bad news (emphasis his):
Negative feedback isn’t necessarily bad. We know that criticism is more useful than praise. It helps us to understand our shortcomings and make our products and business better. If customers are willing to offer you free advice, why would you not want to listen? If negativity exists, wouldn’t you rather find out now than wait until it turns up in The Wall Street Journal?