Monday, February 21, 2005

Rules for the PR Reformation

Several days ago, I compared the work that many PR bloggers are doing for their profession with an important-yet-underappreciated trade in architecture: demolition. As I said, recent PR scandals guarantee that there will be lots of demolition work for some time to come, and many of us are looking forward to it. But I think there will be building, too. Already we are seeing how new media may be laying the new foundation; if blogs are knocking down the old church of PR, collaborative tools like wikis may very well rebuild it.

Look around and you'll see plenty of evidence of a PR reformation. But it won't be easy -- the tools we are using are very crude, and we're often blind to the wicked harm they can bring when put in the hands of "infoenthusiasts." But if you are down for the cause, yet unsure what your role might be, here are a few easy, but by no means irrefutable, rules of engagement. You won't find these nailed to any church door.

1. You always have a choice, no matter who you are

Whatever role you assume -- whether you are a pod, a peer, or a pontiff -- you are capable of doing good and evil. No innocents to the east of Eden -- we've all tasted from the tree of knowledge, and we know better.

2. All of us are pods

In the blogosphere, as in any place, we're defined by the company we keep -- by the content we link, by the messages we repeat.

3. Many of us are peers

Because for many of us it's not enough to fill the pod, so we go out and meet others. But by what code do we meet and greet the stranger? Again, we can do good, or do evil.

4. A few of us are pontiffs

Because some of us -- you've met a few -- also need to take a position, and persuade others to share that position. But for what purpose and goal do we exercise this power?

5. The "best of us" are all three

Because by pontiffs we're not referring to the famous man in robes. We're using the word in its original sense -- the people who serve as "bridge builders" among the various communities whose diversity we often fail to grasp. The triple-p ... a cool role to aspire to.

6. Be real, and be thoughtful

Unless you are looking for laughs -- which we do encourage (see rule 10) -- do not play the provocateur simply because it pleases you. To paraphrase John Seely Brown, bloggers are prone to tunneling; they sometimes have trouble seeing the collateral damage they might cause when stirring up trouble, or having fun.

7. Be transparent

In everything.

8. If you have something really good to say, don't just blog it.

Wik it -- and wik it good. Your brilliant thoughts could use some company. Guaranteed they will improve.

9. Toughen up

10. Because, alas, the reformation will not be nice to everyone (see note above about collateral damage), and even the best of the triple-p's may not be spared.

10. Lighten up

Because with all this reconstruction, we're gonna need a break. Crack a smile. Tell a joke. And remember, please, to wik it (if it's any good).

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