Quiet is the new loud

My final thoughts on Global PR Blog Week:

When trying to summarize my impressions of this week, I come to think of the title of an album from the Norwegian lo-fi rock group Kings of Convenience. It is called “Quiet is the new loud”. Is that not what we have been preaching through out this week? That, in times when everyone screams, the solution is not to scream louder but to whisper. It has become incredibly hard to reach consumers via mass communication. Super Bowl ads and sponsorships of the Olympics, millions of dollars are spent on branding activities with questionable results. But with new technology like blogs we have the opportunity to start small conversations – whispers – with tiny groups of people who actually will listen, which if our predicitions are right, in time will spread and our messages will have the chance to reach larger audiences. Quiet is the new loud.

Anyhow, Global PR Blog Week has been a positive and interesting experience. We have learned a lot ourselves, made new contacts and hopefully shared knowledge with people outside our little PR blog community. One thing though that I think have been partly missing from the debate is that we are focusing very much on the distribution of news and not the quality of news today. Sure we like to believe that media consumers are getting more and more of their news online, but at least here in Sweden, it is simply the online versions of the traditional media. Still just a fraction of all people get a fraction of their news intake via blogs or independent online media. Big media rules like never before, in spite of internet. And big media don’t write about stuff that matters anymore.

Media concentration in combination with conglomeration and infotainment journalism prevents vital information from reaching citizens in favour of trivia. And in my eyes is it getting more and more difficult for PR to get the messages out simply because the media are full of non-news and the space PR is fighting for is getting smaller and smaller. Let me give you an example from Sweden.

Last fall, the Swedish Foreign Minister Anna Lindh was stabbed to death in the center of Stockholm by a young man named Mijajlo Mijailovic. It was a story that was of vital interest to all citizens of this country. A leading member of the government gets stabbed by a lunatic in broad daylight. The notion shook our socitey and everything Sweden stands for, openess, safety, democracy etc.

In January 2004, there was a murder in Knutby, a small community north of Uppsala in Sweden. The story had all kinds of nasty ingredients, including sex, murder, religion and technology. A perfect news story, but one that had nothing to do with ordinary people’s lives, and should not be very interesting.

Not surprisingly though, Swedish media has to this date written 7291 articles about the Knutby murder and just under 6000 articles about Mijailovic. Both incredibly high numbers, but still, shouldn’t the murder of our Foreign Minister be more important to cover than a local murder? Why are our media full of trivia and nonsense like all these reality show “news”? These stories are like a balloon you try to flush down the toilet. It is just air, but it still keeps floating up to the surface over and over again. Even serious news tend to turn into mega events. One month it is the Iraq war, the next it is all about the European Championships in football or the Olympics. News are blown out of proportion and no other stories can be told.

This is what we are up against and what I think is the most important challenge for the new PR, to find ways to increase diversity of voices and to get a multitude of messages. Blogs, wikis and so on are a very good start and I have high hopes for the future. Let’s continue to build on the knowledge we’ve gained during Global PR Blog Week and make it an annual event.