The Dangers of Sprinting at the Start of a Marathon

A random thought occurred to me as I reflected on events of the past few weeks. It’s been a wild ride lately. Two speaking gigs. Many newbiz meetings. The Edelman imbroglio. The launch of crayon. The launch of PRX Builder. The laborious-but-fascinating process of judging award entries for the upcoming SNCR event in Boston (sign up!). A social media extravaganza.

But in the course of these activities, even as I found myself energized by the next-gen stuff, I also met plenty of people who a) didn’t have a clue, b) didn’t want to be clued-in, and/or c) wanted to be clued in, but honestly were far more concerned with traditional "PR-101" concepts.

Are we "2.0 types" (and you can be a 2.0 type without approving of the 2.0 label) in danger of lapping our PR industry peers, our clients?

"Lapping — to overtake and thereby lead or increase the lead over (another contestant) by a full circuit of a racecourse."

This is one of my bigger fears as I walk the road of Social Media advocacy. If 95% of our colleagues and client stakeholders are still slooooowly coming to grips with "the blogging thing" or "that MySpace stuff," do we threaten to blow their minds by suggesting a "Second Life presence?" Does the Social Media proposition become so B-I-G that it becomes insurmountably daunting to would-be advocates? Could we be moving a little too fast? If we are breathless with excitement now, at the start of the race, will we lose the stamina required to make lasting inroads in PR practices?

I look forward to the day when all PR 2.0 adherents are happily yammering about our "success stories" instead of about our "opportunities."

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Posted on: October 27, 2006 at 9:25 am By Todd Defren
8 Responses to “The Dangers of Sprinting at the Start of a Marathon”


  • Kami Huyse says:

    I am on vacation, so I won’t be long winded. This is also a concern of mine, and it is exactly why I don’t call it PR 2.0. PR 2. what? Also, you can read my first post one year ago this week where I explained that the new PR wasn’t new. I am sticking by that thought.

  • Surely PR can only, and has only, thrived through innovation, through pioneers. Web 2.0 may be a new and exciting channel of communicating with our audiences but the basics of public relations will always be paramount no matter what method we use. Of course it will change the way we operate, just like e-mail, the internet, search engines have all done in the past but PR has always been about coping with changes in the environment, foreseeing and reacting to constant changes to everything around us. I don’t think you can view PR as a long distance race – it’s a job, we do what we have to do and cope with what we have to. It is not like we are constantly working, we rest get on with our social lives come back to work and work hard. The day we run out of ideas is the day that we should quit the PR world.

  • JesseCiccone says:

    It does my heart (or, at least, the part of it devoted to my vocation) good to see the sentiments conveyed in this post and its comments.

    In ‘evangelizing’ among my colleagues and clients, I go to great lengths to a) emphasize that I am no expert, but more importantly b) explain that this whole 2.0 thang is a work in progress so there ARE no true experts. (There isn’t a pole long enough to touch anybody claiming to be one!)

    A pleasant surprise in this ‘set your own pace’ approach is that those that have tried learning by doing have gone deeper faster than I could’ve hoped!

  • Thought provoking post. I think you’ll enjoy our blog posting titled Are you an Innovator or a Laggard with Web 2.0? Does it Matter?.

    It’s not so much a question of getting too far ahead. You should stay ahead! But, don’t let it get to your head :-) IOW, stay focused, on message and open to new and better ideas on how these “web 2.0″ features can drive real, measurable marketing and PR goals.

    Obtaining market leadership in the early stages of an emerging technology (aka product lifecycle) does not guarantee success as the market matures. The reason is because sustainable, profitable businesses are the ones who capture the Early Majority buyers (masses), not the Innovators or Early Adopters. This is why it is important to stay ahead, yet open minded.

    We’re noticing a LOT more traditional PR firms are now interested in SEO and social media who as recently as 12 mos ago totally ignored it. So the masses are coming.

    BTW, I love your blog!

    Mark Willaman
    President and Founder

  • Jeff Davis says:

    I agree as well. While the 2.0 types are paving the way (and each of us learning as well), we must not forget those being lapped…once they’re on board, many will have much to contribute, so let’s keep educating them and spreading the word about life beyond the emailed press release. I had a speaking gig in Baltimore a few weeks ago where I covered PR 2.0 topics … but the vast majority of questions during and after the presentation focused on RSS feeds…excruciating details on how to sign up for a reader. Folks, most people aren’t even up to speed on RSS, so imagine how many more laps they have to go before they’ve even heard of Second Life!

  • Exactly! And exactly why, while I applaud advances like the social media press release and other “new” stuff, I also urge caution.

    We have to match what we offer our clients with what they are ready for. Ready for a new media viral campaign, and willing to do what it takes? Great. Not really ready? The worst thing we can do is push them into something they aren’t culturally prepared for. It will inevitably backfire in some fashion and it could take a very long time before the client is willing to try again.

  • John Wagner says:

    Great post … and I would say yes, that some communications pros are moving too fast for the real world. It’s something I often caution people about. Too many bloggers spend too much time talking only to other bloggers, and not to real people.

    For example, I think Second Life is still w-a-a-a-y-y-y out there for a lot of regular folk.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong for marketers and PR folks to explore using it, but to focus on it seems like a waste of time considering how many problems we still encounter communicating in the first life.

  • Todd,

    As I have discovered in my career so far, a company must not “lap” their clients. I have found it is best to outpace your clients. By that I mean a company should run 10 to 20 feet ahead of the client but never leave them miles behind.

    I think blogs are just beginning to become mainstream for corporate America and the MySpace thing probably needs more time before most companies catch on.

    However, I must admit that I fail to see the so called greatness of Second Life. If the game were to take off and have millions of devoted players, I can see the benefit of a second economy or consumer group for a company. But I think it is just too much right now. I think most companies want to operate in the real world, converse with real people, and make real money. Now it can be argued that real people are behind the virtual avatars, but I think you get my point. Would you care to explain the benefits of Second Life?

    Also, I believe myself to be fairly high-tech but I don’t even understand exactly what Crayon does! Are they a marketing company that has a Second Life presence or are they strictly a Second Life business? I could be very wrong but if Crayon is strictly a Second Life marketing company, then I would not expect the company to last very long.

    What do you think?

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