Monday, December 22, 2008

Overwhelmed and Ready for Winter's Nap

Maybe it was writing a 900-word magazine article for a client, to appear in a state trade magazine in January, with little notice and little direction from the client who is in Europe for the holidays.

Maybe it was getting a package from France containing 37 graduate student essay exams that needed to be graded asap--from the students I taught for a week this past October.

Maybe it's the 50+ inches of snow we got BEFORE the first day of actual winter here on the shores of Lake Michigan.

For sure part of it was the past several hours I spent re-organizing my bookmarks, aggregators, and RSS feeds. I am all a-twitter. I am blogged down. I am caught in a web of despair.

I am overwhelmed.

Sometimes I feel a little "verklempt" (sp?) (I refer to the Mike Myers character on SNL). Social media seems neither social nor media. Discuss.

I'm not the only one. One of the legions of blogs I try to keep up with is Steve Rubel's Micropersuasion. In a recent post he discusses the fact that information overload can be a real financial cost to companies. He mentions a free information overload calculator provided by Basex if you'd like to check out the damage to your office:)

Generally speaking, Rubel notes, half of our day is spent seeking and managing information. To some extent, to those of us in PR that should not be alarming. We are in the information economy after all, and public relations is in the business of information.

But, we also need to share information. And we need to compete with all the information that's out there. And we need to be well-informed to do our jobs well.

What this means is making sure we cut through the clutter for management, being judicious about what information is good, accurate, relevant, and necessary and reporting it to them succinctly. We also have to remember that information on its own is worthless; information given context is knowledge. Knowledge is what management wants from us.

We also have to make sure that the content we provide in various means to various constituents is valuable to them.

Our co-workers, bosses, and clients will often say we "just" need to "get the word out." That has never been enough. It's even less useful now. We have to give the word context, make it relevant, make it stand out from the cacophony and clutter.

All of the social media tools are cool, but a tool weakly wielded is useless and possibly dangerous. Technology in some ways has made the work of PR easier. But it is a two-edged sword--it also makes things harder. We have to remain calm as we survey the stormy sea of social media. We have to look not at every wave, but the horizon, and set a course with that obective in mind.

Sounds good. I'm still overwhelmed. And ready for a long winter's nap.

Happy holidays to GRPR readers. I'll post again in '09.

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