Something significant and potentially game-changing happened this past week.
Maybe you have seen the news. In case you missed it, Shel Israel wrote about it in a recent post on braided journalism, a term he coined a little while ago to describe a developing practice of traditional and citizen journalists starting to intertwine through mutual need.
This is also the latest example of enlightened experimentation from Dell, an organization that is leading on its way to what Dachis defines a social business. They were first in implementing a site for customers to submit and vote on product ideas — IdeaStorm — and first to coordinate social product launches at the same time with traditional announcements.
With more than 800 associates across the organization trained in listening/monitoring and participating in social media, Dell is breaking new ground again. As Shel reported, he was among four freelance journalists invited to participate in a new portal, the power to do more, a project that is more online magazine than company Web site.
Thinking like a publisher
In my last corporate job I also handled public relations for the organization and its lines of business, as well as customer communications. Part of the work we did in collaboration with the general managers and technical subject matter experts was what many call thought leadership — the production of papers, articles, and eBooks to educate and inform on issues our customers and prospects were facing.
We also commented and offered our point of view on industry trends. By doing so, we filtered and organized data, knowledge, and experience to tell a story. Admittedly, we worked on casting the business in a favorable light and positioning the company's combined expertise for business development.
As different as our goal might have been, our approach was very similar to that of reporting — telling a story. If you still read newspapers and watch television news you probably won't fight me too hard on this point. In fact, I would probably argue that what passes for journalism in some news outlets is blatant opinion.
Companies have the power to do more
In correlating my experience with Dell's initiative, I can think of a few insights on how embedded journalists could help businesses generate true thought leadership that helps advance industries, transform supply chains, thus advancing the whole market as a result.
The impact of journalists and reporters would be felt in a number of ways:
- integrating the point of view of a third party lends additional credibility to the business
- presenting a more complete version than the one quote, sometimes taken out of context, in trade press
- bringing more customer and non customer voices to the conversation
- including more representatives of the whole ecosystem the business operates in
- adding a needed perspective from researchers and domain experts
This is a role that skilled communicators have played in the past. I just noticed that I've been a member of the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) for ten years. In this time span, I have seen the profession swing wildly in many directions, some of which have moved to favoring publicity generation and reputation protection.
Which is why I'm excited at the prospect of reinventing how we work with journalists and reporters at a time when mainstream media is wrestling with its own demons.
I'm thinking about several applications in crisis situations as well, when mainstream media is wrapped in the "blame game" and organization communicators are overwhelmed with helping manage the crisis and customers communications to correct misinformation before every other news outlets repeats it without fact checking.
Is braided journalism in the future of public relations?