Tuesday, January 01, 2008
There isn't much value in New Year resolutions. Perhaps one in a thousand keeps them. Most of us continue as we are with good points and bad. That's OK. Changing behavior is slow even with the best intentions. As Benjamin Franklin wrote more than 200 years ago, it is amazing what one discovers when attempting to refashion personal habits. It seems our behaviors are more deeply rooted than we suspected, even if we are introspective. For communicators that is a valuable lesson. We can't expect individuals to change much, even with compelling reasons for doing so. Metanoia is rare. The best we can hope for is to insinuate messages into behaviors people possess. But, to achieve that requires profound understanding of individuals. We've known this for decades in PR, but we're still bad at doing it. We rely too much on surveys, not enough on anthropological research. We plead the legitimate excuse that there is little money in PR for finding out before we send messages. We do seat-of-the-pants guessing, or we learn the interests of gatekeepers -- reporters -- and appeal to those rather than to an end audience. The problem with this is that "ink" becomes a justification in itself, and many clients are pleased with that. It keeps us in business. On the other hand, does it really change minds? There is little proof it does. We stop one step before the final audience and declare victory. Perhaps that is the best PR can do, but it would be good if the industry formed a resolution to change -- and did it.