First, in an era of “authenticity,” how should training be viewed?
While it’s more etiquette training than media training, I found a short piece in PR Tactics Online about “manners training” for the US athletes very interesting. While I understand the purpose of the training (namely, to not embarrass the US on the world stage), I read this story on the heels of the disclosure that the Chinese not only faked the fireworks in the opening ceremony, they also had a “prettier” girl lip-sync the “Ode to the Motherland” song, using the voice of another little girl. The question that started rolling around in my mind was, how much authenticity can we–or should we–expect? The line seems fairly clear: it’s okay to ask athletes to respect the traditions of the host nation (even if that means not being “themselves”), but it’s not okay to polish up to the point of lying.
I was initially surprised at the two-day manners training for the athletes, but after reflecting on it for a bit, it makes sense. The US government has been doing this for diplomats preparing to serve overseas for a long time now. Athletes might not have realized that by qualifying for the Olympics they were becoming ambassadors for the country, but they undoubtedly are.
This is the same thing media training (a classic PR function) tries to do–it prepares an individual on what to expect when facing the media. Even in an era of authenticity, where talking points and scripting are derided (as is the PR profession in general) there is a role for preparing people and making them aware of what they may face, and how they should handle things.
Next, so…speaking of authenticity…
Aside from the absurdity of the term “Persona Blogger” this post caught my attention for another reason. In a discussion about the fake personalities that this blogger sets up, Chris Kieff at 1 Goodreason writes that:
“The audience at SM Camp NYC seemed to divide somewhat along generational lines, with some of the younger people taking the side that it’s understood that people can’t be trusted on the internet. Their arguments followed the logic that everyone on the internet makes things up. They’ve grown up understanding there are different levels of honesty.”
Wow…just wow. So the very generation that is demanding authenticity and is eschewing traditional marketing, and moving their communications with friends and family to social networks, doesn’t believe most of what they read online. Where does this leave us as communicators? This generation of consumers/voters/citizens is online, communicating through social networks, so we need to reach them there. But they don’t believe most of what’s there…so, does this bring us squarely back to traditional communications channels as the primary source of information, and just link to them, and/or hope that it filters back to social media channels?
For a great deal of information, this is what is being done–for example, bloggers link to and cite mainstream media stories often. It’s yet another reason why for so many companies, MSM is still the coverage that they want.