Filtering The Real News From Garbage

The technological advances we’ve seen in our lifetime is amazing. The Internet has changed the way the world works, cell phones have altered the communications landscape, and many life-threatening illnesses are now curable, just to name a few. While I always marvel at what my kids can do with their smartphones – they laugh at me when I tell them there was no such thing as a PC when I was their age – I sometimes wonder if we’ve gone too far. Yes, it can be a good thing to have a lot of information on a subject, other times too much information, especially when working with editors, can be a negative.

Since President Obama took office we’ve seen a dramatic change in the importance placed on transparency. Being accountable to your constituents is one of the many great things about our democracy. But how much information should we have at our fingertips? How much is too much when it comes to fighting off “Big Brother?” In many ways the act of governing is like sausage — you may like the taste, but you don’t want to see how it’s made.

Knowing how our government representatives vote is fine, but knowing all of the details about how everything is planned and developed “will inspire not reform, but disgust.” In a recent article in CNN, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey talked about the negative side of transparency with regard to government. “Too many politicians aren’t voting their conscience, they’re voting to placate blog commenters, and that’s no way to run government.”

For those of us in the communications field it’s important to ask ourselves if our company is sharing too much information, not enough, or is somewhere in the middle. More important is the question of “what is newsworthy?” Sharing information through multiple channels is fine as long as the news is important. Spamming the world with news of little interest does nothing except get others to tune your news out.

When developing an announcement plan, corporate social media strategy, or building a relationship with an influential editor or blogger, PR folks need to use their internal “garbage meter” to determine how valuable and relevant the news is. Instead of getting people to tune you out, it’s important to make the news compelling enough so that they want to follow your news regularly.

A PR plan or social media strategy needs to take into account what your overall goals are and how newsworthy your announcement is, not “how are we going to blanket the world with our news.” This kind of thinking can also get you in trouble with the media. I know one editor who said that some PR folks upload a release to this editor’s website, Tweet about the news, update Facebook, e-mail the editor directly, and then link back to the editor’s blog with the news. That’s fine as long as the news is of value.

The next time you outline an announcement strategy or PR plan, think carefully about what your goals are. Living in the age of increased transparency, in many ways, is a great thing. But beware of information overload. Or as philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once stated, “In America the majority raises formidable barriers around the liberty of opinion; within these barriers an author may write what he pleases, but woe to him if he goes beyond them.”

Rob Goodman

Author: Rob Goodman

Rob Goodman is a communications professional with more than 27 years of experience in public relations, marketing and content creation.