Posted by Amanda Chapel Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Text 100 Demonstrates How to Play Business Today
Imagine some PR babe flying up from the baseline, arm arching high midway into some windmill monster jam. Nope. This ain’t ‘bout that yo. This is about Text 100 CEO Aedhmar Hynes and her firm’s hugely hyped foray into Second Life. It's especially about managing the challenges. Damn, that Aimer’s got game.
Okay, by way of a little background... Second Life (SL) is a 3-D simulation on the Internet. It’s a cross between a medium-resolution kid's video game and a Web chat application. One becomes an “avatar,” i.e. a human-looking cartoon character that simulates walking around various simulated neighborhoods where one gets to participate in various text chats with others. It’s cool. But you've got to keep in mind that what you’re looking at adds zero relevant information as to who you are talking to. It's make believe. It’s entertainment. If future iterations could be made to include actual genuine human expression, of the actual person behind the avatar, that would be quite compelling. But for now, it is primarily... a game.
But reality never stopped a PR person looking to make a buck; in fact, quite the opposite. Here’s the deal; since what we do in PR is for the most part so God-awful basic and tactical, we are forced to resort to three things in order to separate you from your hard earned cash: brand the firm, brand specialized expertise, and glom on to new things that make us sound smart. All pretty silly actually. In order of appearance: 1) there’s NO difference between Hill and Knowlton, Burson-Marsteller and Ogilvy, for instance (none); 2) the ability of anyone in the Automotive Group to pitch the automotive press is pretty much equal to anyone in the Consumer Group pitching the automotive press (a good story is a good story); and 3) the new Brand-360-ROI-Trust-Barometer-Thingamabob stuff is crap! I mean, c'mon; it's PR for cripes sake.
Why does anyone fall for it? Well, used to be that to say you had H&K as your PR firm meant something on the golf course. And as to domain expertise, certainly birds of a feather flock together gives the appearance of comprehension. That’s human nature. But this "new new thing" claim in PR is actually subtly nefarious. See, it's real shinny and that buys me time. Everybody likes shinny and if I can just get you to take it home... who knows how much your world will change by the time you get there. Bottom line: I've already got your money. I had a boss once that did nothing but repitch business. He’d win the business only to have a client then say in about 90 to 100 days, “wait a minute, I am not getting what I paid for.” By that time the checks had cleared and my boss would repitch the business (on the client's dime) only to revisit the disgruntled client in about 3 months again. That cycle would happen about 3 or 4 times until we were ultimately fired. (For the record, this guy was the darling of our Agency’s CEO. The NY bean counters were absolutely convinced he pooped silver dollars.)
Today, it's not that easy. The “hype-sales cycle” is all fucked up. What you say you’re going to do in all likelihood makes its way onto the Web and remains there... forever! That gives hype a shelf life of about three minutes before people get antsy. The complaining and "I think you’re full of shit," takes about a week, tops. That’s what we’ve got with Aimer’s Second Life play, I’m afraid.
1. An activity providing entertainment or amusement; a pastime: party games; word games.
2. A competitive activity or sport in which players contend with each other according to a set of rules: the game of gin rummy.
3. A business or occupation; a line: the PR game.
4. An illegal activity; a racket.
5. Evasive, trifling, or manipulative behavior: wanted a straight answer, not more of their tiresome games.
6. A calculated strategy or approach; a scheme: I saw through their game from the very beginning.
Last August 8, Text 100 International announced that it had become the first public relations consultancy to establish a presence inside Second Life. They claimed that their presence in SL added "a new meaning to the firm's history of organic growth in emerging technology markets," i.e CLIENTS and FEES!
Not really sure as to what they were actually doing there, Aimer said at the time, "I don't think any of us can be sure where this revolution is going to take communications but I do know that I want Text 100 to participate in that change."
Georg Kolb, EVP and leader of Text 100's SL efforts said, "Having a presence in Second Life will enable us to explore, innovate and collaborate on a next generation communications platform,” i.e. we are gonna try to figure it out.
This aimless kinda-PR-kinda-not I-hope-clients-will-pay-us-to-justify-it thing was recently echoed by Rick Murray, president of Edelman infamous Me@Revolution. Of SL Rick said, “There's a lot of people gathering, an awful lot of experimentation, and any time you can get fake people together spending real money on fake things to create value...” Murray added, “I don’t know how it’s going to end up or where we’re going to end up in it but it’s pretty cool.”
Cool, indeed. Although it does not have points, scores, winners or losers, levels, an end-strategy, it is classic avocation. It's a game.
Seeing dollar signs, Aimer disagrees. In an article last November, "First lessons from our Second Life,” she wrote: "Second Life is not a game, simply because its use is not determined by any game script."
- "Smiddy Smails" (Aaron Uhrmacher): Do you think Linden’ policy about still calling SL "a game" helps PR firms in bringing here corporate clients?
- "Gregor Kondo" (Georg Kolb): Do the Lindens [SL’s creators] still call it a game? If so, they shouldn’t.
Ironically, Aimer had been pretty clear: “I caution against entering this space without an engagement strategy. Being first is not enough. What’s more important is the way that companies use Second Life as a tool to communicate and interact with their constituencies. How are you going to differentiate your company from the competition to this new public? What’s going to make your presence compelling or how will it add value to your company and to the communities you want to engage with? These are tough questions, and we are still learning as we go.”
This week Text 100 announced the “SL Gaming Expo: We got game.” According to an inside source: “It's like a big room full of ridiculous games. There's one you can buy called Multiboard. Another one is called The Settlers of Second Life which seems like a Sim City...so that's like playing a game to build a virtual world inside another virtual world which, to be honest, is just too fucked up. There's a trivia game, big chess, and a bunch of puzzles and space invaders-like arcade game called Sim Invaders. Lastly, there’s something where you need to build a tower, called Babel. I guess, that’s supposed to be ironic; maybe not.”
Some might say the PR game is nothing but a terribly time-wasting distraction for people that should be doing something more useful.
"I have a dream today! I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; 'and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.'"
Do you hear those words? Listen. It is a prophet writing on subway walls as a balm for a social dis-ease. It raises us up as we are naturally subtly persuaded to kneel.
Martin Luther King gave his famous "I Have a Dream" speech August 28, 1963. It is absolutely a masterpiece in American rhetoric. It is also a masterpiece in Public Relations.
Through the rhetorical device of allusion, King makes use of phrases and language from important cultural texts -- the Bible, the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Gettysburg Address the Emancipation Proclamation -- for his own purposes.
Again, think PR at its finest. Dr. King used the bad publicity that resulted from the violent reaction to his non-violent protest to affect anti-segregation demands. Dr. King then used the subsequent national focus to organize the 200,000-person march on our nation's capital. And then, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, he gave his "I Have a Dream" speech, which is credited with mobilizing supporters of desegregation broadly prompting the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The next year, King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Here is a brief one and a half minute clip. Watch it. Not just today, we in PR should watch it before we begin every day. If it doesn't directly inspire, it surely will embarrass us all into more dignified pursuits and initiatives.
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