We’re losing our camouflage. It used to be that if you weren’t good at intelligently engaging one-on-one with people, you could conceal that fact. The distance of geography, the speed of the printed word, and the cover of exclusive groups allowed us to compensate for poor interpersonal communication skills. It took time for ramifications to unfold, your thoughts could be carefully composed, and you didn’t have to deal with people that weren’t like you.
Deirdre Breakenridge just wrote a great post calling this new reality “PR 2.0 Raw” (following up on an interview with Tatyana Gann) – it’s a great metaphor. My favoite line: “Media training doesn’t work in the blogosphere.” The blogosphere doesn’t agree on a list of questions beforehand, nor wait patiently in the green room, nor is it tempered by the quids pro quo that exist between the traditional newsmedia and the influencers they cover.
I’m serious as a heart attack when I say that discovering the chatrooms and messageboards of the Internet in the 90s (and karaoke) really helped me grow as a person; they were the training wheels that helped purge me of a lot of my insecurities. I found that I was actually a likable person and that I had something valuable to contribute. It also sharpened my ability to think on my feet (and to type at a blistering pace). As a result, I’m really optimistic about the future because I’m very comfortable with the “PR 2.o Raw” reality. I never liked impersonally blasting media outlets with template press releases anyway.
I have a sense of humor, I loathe taking myself too seriously and I try to infuse that spirit in everything I do. That’s why my employee ID says “PR Flak” (it’s the sort of thing that happens when you let student workers run the ID printing machines). In this new environment, I think it’s more important to study the timing of stand-up comics than the AP Style Guide. Teaching an Interpersonal Communication class has really reinforced that for me. Reading nonverbal behavior, understanding how to mediate conflicts, and adopting an other-oriented approach in an increasingly diverse world are what it’s all about.
So if you’re great with people, good news – the world is now your oyster. If not – you better roll up your sleeves and invest in some personal growth.
* If you’re looking for some light reading, I recommend “Don’t Stop Believin’: How Karaoke Conquered the World and Changed My Life‘” by Bryan Raftery (and not just because it mirrors my own biography).