The cat is out of the bag! Thatcher is dead. Are you prepared?

Imagine yourself as Canada’s Prime Minister.  Imagine being told by trusted staffers that Britain’s former Prime Minister, Mrs. Margaret Thatcher, had passed away.  Meanwhile, minutes before, Canada’s Minister of Transport, grieving the loss of his pet cat named Thatcher, had text messaged his trusted staffers indicating that “Thatcher is Dead.”

What if this private text message got misconstrued?

Three simple words – Thatcher is Dead – not only led to an embarrassing diplomatic kerfuffle, it underscores the lightening-fast dynamics of web-based communication technologies.

PR fiasco aside, this faux pas underscores the basics of good PR – that communication and public relations professionals should verify facts before launching into any formal communication such as drafting news releases and sending formal letters of condolences.  More tellingly, however, it underscores the rapid viral power of disruptive communication technologies.

In the good old days – about a year ago – PR professionals specializing in “media relations” focused on traditional outlets such as print, radio and television. These traditional media were then grafted to an online environment. But times have changed. Media is no longer a simple process.  It’s incredibly social.  So adhering to “key messaging strategies” needed to manage clients’ brands, images, or ideas simply can’t happen anymore.  Instead, today’s social media is incredibly more organic, democratic and omnidirectional, similar to a public forum where everyone can have a say. The future of PR professionals will be more like herding cats instead of simply positioning key messages.

Clearly, the “Thatcher is Dead” fiasco underscores the need for comprehensive PR planning that takes into account the viral dynamics of disruptive media such as SMS, Twitter, Facebook, blogging, wikis and emerging virtual worlds. And just as it takes many years to earn your stripes as a “media relations specialist”, it takes just as many – if not more – to understand how to strategically manage these incredibly complex disruptive communication technologies.

The cat is out of the bag!  Thatcher is dead.  Are you prepared?

Published in: on November 15, 2009 at 9:49 pm  Leave a Comment  
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