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January 5, 2010
The Future Could be a Gimmick

Public relations people need to know what they're relating to, and an important focus is the future. But what's the future? How can you know with any certainty what it holds or where to look to head there? Well, you can't tape the future to your monitor as though it's a sticky note. With an open-enough mind, you may garner some signs of the future sooner than others who aren't so perceptive.

All this is preamble to a marvelous piece in this month's KMWorld magazine, "The future is a gimmick," by David Weinberger. The future may begin with inventions, as it did with Fulton's steamboat and the Wrights' flying machine, but at the time those devices were rolled (or floated) out, Weinberger notes, they appeared to many as gimmicks, with little practical value. The same logic applied to the Hula-Hoop and Velcro.

"The Hula-Hoop remained just a Hula-Hoop," Weinberger adds, "but Velcro became the very basis of civilized society."

The Internet makes it even harder to detect the future because the Web is so dispersed and diverse, but out there, the future is forming. People who aspire to be future detectors need to be specially attuned and alert to spot signs of it emerging, and that's what PR people are, right?

Okay, some of us haven't done so well in spotting the application of social media to the needs of clients, and we still don't get what Twitter can do for them. But that just means we've got to be more studious, more alert, and more willing to engage with "gimmicks" that may, indeed, be harbingers of the future. Doing so will make life more interesting and give us more to read and speculate about. Being future-conscious will help us develop and grow in the present. 

So keep your eyes, and perceptions, out for Weinberger's "gimmicks." They may be signs of where we're headed, and you may get there first. 




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Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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