From the Desk of Patrick Ward
Today in San Francisco, Facebook made a grand announcement about its recently acquired Instagram service. And the tech press corps is all aflutter. Two weeks ago, the press corps' attention was fixated on Apple's developer conference, the annual gaming confab, E3 and the blooming scandal around cyber-security engendered by the revelations that the National Security Agency may be listening to my wife telling me what to bring home for dinner.
These are all major stories and the press corps rightly gives them significant attention. But in weeks and days like these, such stories pretty much monopolize the media, and any company that has something to say -- relevant, newsworthy or not -- has to stand on the sidelines and wait for the dust to clear. Now that's not every single reporter or outlet, but it does cripple the tech desks at most major news organizations.
This is all a function of the contemporary news culture, both the producers and consumers. News organizations have always been somewhat susceptible to news cycles; the political press corps uses this metaphor openly. And when you add in the shrinking number of reporters and editors still around to cover these events, the paralytic preoccupation makes even more sense. And because readers and viewers get so easily swept along and tweet and post and blog about it all, driving both SEO and social media traffic, it sort of becomes a self-fulfilling enterprise.
But it does adversely affect the communications efforts of the rest of the world, left to either feed from the remaining scraps or forced to find a calmer week to announce whatever they want to announce. We can't fault Apple or Facebook for trying to dominate the news. Good for them. But it demonstrates my long-standing position that companies have to look at the increasingly capricious media as a channel, not the channel.
To paraphrase Blanche Dubois poorly, when one has to depend on the kindness of strangers to ensure your PR program's success, that's not a strategy, that's serendipity. I've never met a client who preferred unpredictability to its inverse.