In my world, it seems that Steve Rubel is speaking everywhere. And what he’s saying concerns me.
A Hofstra University graduate, Steve is chief content strategist at Edelman, the world’s largest public relations firm. His role (as I understand it) is to study and report on trends in social media, and how they affect the business of providing content. In recent presentations at Hofstra and the Fair Media Council, and in this month’s edition of Public Relations Tactics, Steve talked about trends that may forever change the way we receive news.
Quoted by Kyra Aufferman in the article, “Edelman’s Steve Rubel on content disruption,” Steve says communicators have to come up with new strategies to break through the masses of available media. “There’s a difference between the news you read and news you say you’re reading,” he believes. “One is to elevate your private self and the other is to elevate your public self. We (communicators) have to be thinking about that in the way we tell stories.”
Steve sees the lines blurring between journalistic content and content provided by PR and advertising people. “Brands and corporations now feel confident that they can tell their own stories in their own way,” bypassing traditional media outlets and using converging media to communicate directly with their publics in a two-way, feedback-friendly environment. This also means that paid content is showing up as news in social media platforms. Kyra Aufferman writes, “Today, more media companies are willing to collaborate with brands to place sponsored content–even the AP started posting paid tweets on their Twitter feed.”
We should be concerned. Does this mean that paid content and “free” content on social media, generated by professional communicators, could be disguised as reported news and perhaps take its place? It could happen–and Steve Rubel says it’s already happening. This puts a lot of potential power in the PR practitioners’ hands. Of course, to quote Spider-Man: “With great power comes great responsibility.” As always, PR people must strive to create honest, responsible content for our new media platforms. Your thoughts?