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August 6, 2009
The Mourning of a (Technology-Driven) Nation - And a Few Predictions

What a summer. It’s only half over and we’ve seen the passing of Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays.

I happened to be on Facebook and Twitter(rific) while watching the TV news when the news broke, so I was hearing/reading updates from several sources. While many people posting weren¹t yet up to speed on updates, others had already predicted death according to one major news outlet.

To watch this all happen in real time was fascinating (not to mention incredibly sad). While watching the TV news as an individual, I was able to be part of two major, international, multi-cultural communities where people were sharing their thoughts as quickly and immediately as they came to mind.

Some people posted videos from YouTube and other sites, while others wrote about where to find music and photos. And the TV newscasters just continued talking to the camera (and the at-home audience) in the background.

About two hours later, I watched “Access Hollywood,” which, because it’s taped earlier in the day, didn’t talk about the death of Michael Jackson ­and reminded me how far behind TV can be, even over a 2-hour period. Even the late night shows had finished taping before his death, so they weren’t up-to-speed, either. While the evening TV news was live and constantly updating, entertainment TV shows, which are supposed to keep the public updated on celebrity news, rarely have live breaking news (although their web counterparts might). Yes, we are officially in the age of the 24/7 news cycle ­ and it’s not going to change anytime soon.

I remembered that all of this was very much like the inauguration of President Obama ­ where the world came together via social and technological mediums, voiced their thoughts, and felt elation all at the same time, around the world. Today, we expressed our grief and sadness in the same way, not once but twice.

Facebook, Twitter and many other social networks now give users the ability to commune with the world in real time. From a sociological perspective, it’s amazing that we can share almost anything as a group of one. From a psychological perspective, we’re not alone; there are others who feel they way we do and we can talk with them about it by computer, smartphone or other technological means. From a technological perspective, our thoughts are moving faster across the world than ever before ­ to the masses ­ and back. And from a PR perspective, opportunities to get your message out there are boundless.

If this is how we communicate now, what will it be like in five or ten years? Will we be able to read each other¹s minds and send messages via mental telepathy? Ok, maybe not in ten years, but I think that will happen eventually.

I know others have made their predictions (i.e.: Brian Solis and Joel Postman, who both write TalentZoo columns as well, are just two off the top of my head) but now I’m going to share my thoughts on where we might be in the next five years:

• The press release is not going to die, but it will change format. As PR’s, we will always need a (legal/FCC-approved) way to disseminate company information to the public. While the traditional format of a press release might not exist, the concept of a press release will. How? That remains to be seen. So far, the social media release is the preferred new format.

• Journalism isn’t going to die, but it, too, will change shape. Citizen journalism will be bigger than ever. Will traditional journalists have jobs? Will there be physical newsrooms? Also TBD.

• As important as knowing how to structure thought and how to write are, I think voice technology will take over as our “writers.” We¹ll be able to dictate our sentences, thoughts and stories into computers that will translate them with proper spelling, grammar and sentence structure.

• Instant messaging and faxing are almost obsolete. I believe email use will fade as well. We’re currently using social networks to connect personally with one another.

• Paper and CD-ROM press kits gave way to online press rooms. Where will company websites/online press rooms be in five years? We¹re already beginning to find corporate information in places other than websites, like social networks (i.e.: Facebook¹s Fan/Group pages).

• TV - hmmm, this one’s a tough one for me to predict, but I’m going to throw my thoughts out there anyway. I think TV will exist in the same scheduled and time-shifting formats it currently does, and I don’t see commercials or newscasts becoming so personalized that they talk to us by name - at least, not yet. But again, I see much more user generated content on the TV news. Maybe we’ll be able to touch or click (on the TV screen) on a televised news story and pull up more information about it, much like the way TiVo currently allows you to click on the TV screen and pull up more info about a product. From the PR perspective, our creation of corporate videos and examining the user experience will become part of the content.

• The acronyms and short-hand language of texting will become more widely recognized and accepted, much to the chagrin of English and writing teachers, perfectionists, and language aficionados, like me.

• Any information received by computer, smartphone or other technology will be much more personalized, suited to our individual needs, not the masses. Think of the film “Minority Report.” As PR’s, we¹re going to have relay our messages in several formats and tones to reach our multiple audiences.

• In general, as PR people, we’re going to have to manage more and more outlets and audiences. Technology will help us, but many companies will need to hire additional PR help just to keep on top of the information ­ and respond.

Maybe I’m right, maybe I’m wrong. Only time will tell. (Keep in mind, early last year I said trade show attendance would be down dramatically this year [and that trade shows would ultimately become less important in business]­ and I was right.)

What are your predictions? And were you participating in the worldwide, technological mourning?

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Jocelyn Brandeis is an accomplished and award-winning communications professional with more than 15 years experience in the entertainment, consumer, new media, B2B, Hispanic, and nonprofit industries. She is responsible for securing interviews and media placement and creating full PR campaigns. Since co-founding JBLH Communications, the client roster has included: National Lampoon Comedy House, Doggy Tug, Mandinez.com, Play Clay Factory, The Samuel Waxman Cancer Research Foundation, and The Child Center of NY.

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