At this week’s Mobile Monday meeting, Alan Rosenblatt said something else that got me thinking: “Google destroyed message control.” He meant it specifically in the sense that he thinks Google has made obsolete the old rule that you should never repeat your opponent’s message. He argues instead that you SHOULD repeat it, so that your version can be found online by someone searching for it, but that you should reframe it in the process the old subtle what-he-says-sucks-and-here’s-why strategy. If you show both sides, your credibility goes up. And if you package both your messages and his correctly, you’ll come out looking infinitely better.
I’d argue that Alan hit on a larger truth, though. Google, blogs, YouTube, good old email and all our other fun tools have significantly eroded the idea that campaigns can control their messages and corporations their brands. Yes, there are still intermediated media (if that’s a valid phrase), particularly television, through which you can spread your unfiltered talking points via ads or through surrogates pontificating unchallenged on “news” shows. They’re not going away any time soon.
But they have competition now of a very different sort: online information consumers have too much power for a top-down-only strategy to work for long. Campaigns swim in a competitive sea of ideas and information, and they’re part of an ever-unfolding discussion. They need to join that conversation and shape it, rather than shout their voices down from a mountain on high.