From this week’s mailbag:
Dear Ike –
I’ve heard a lot about this ‘Web 2.0′ stuff, and it has me worried. I just figured out how to do my e-mail and the internet, and I’m really not in a position to pay for an upgrade. What is ‘Web 2.0,’ and how much more will it cost me?
Agnes D., Las Cruces, NM
Dear Agnes -
Fear not! ‘Web 2.0′ is not a commodity to be purchased by end-users such as yourself. It’s a series of technologies and structures that companies pay for! You just get to enjoy it!
Dear Ike –
I work in the PR department of a Fortune 1214 company (can’t tell you which one, for reasons of confidentiality), and am the liaison to the corporate IT department. I read your letter to Agnes from New Mexico, and I’m worried that we’ll get stuck with needing to implement these newfangled Web 2.0 interfaces. Yet IT has the budget authority. Help!
Steven J., NYC
You’re in luck. You might be confusing ‘Web 2.0′ with ‘PR 2.0′. Web-2 refers to websites that are more interactive and responsive to the end user. They employ a lot of nifty programming tricks that do cool things like auto-fill fields with suggestions, push information before you request it, and allow for greater freedom for user customization. PR-2 is a fancy way for describing what I call the Consolidation of Channels.
In the past, companies would communicate with the public using one medium, and the clients/customers/serfs would communicate back through another. Examples:
1567 – King sends town criers to announce a new tax | Peasants respond with torches and pitchforks
1977 – Candidate sponsors a rally | Voter sends a letter of support.
1987 – Company places an ad on television | Angry customer faxes letter.
1997 – Company sends mailer to home address | Customer e-mails displeasure.
2007 – Ad placed on website | Fan creates mashup of ad, links back to original.
As you can see, communication between companies and people has always been two-way – but not always in the same channel. Now we’ve got the tools to talk to our customers in a more friendly, less intrusive format. And they have the ability to inexpensively talk back to us within that same instrument.
The good news for you is you don’t have to have Web 2.0 to employ PR 2.0, and you don’t need IT’s blessing. The bad news is you need buy-in from the guys in the C-Suite.
Ike – thanks for nothing. How in the heck am I supposed to get buy-in from the suits?
Fake Steven J. – NYC
Fascinating question, Fake Steve. I’ll take that up in next week’s column.
And if you have a question…