We Know Nothing

Boy Raising Hand in ClassroomWe all like to go after the “Social Media Experts” claiming there’s no way anyone can a) be an expert in such a new field or b) such a quickly changing field.  Beyond the semantics (“expert” vs. “experience” (as much as one can get), “guru,” “knowledgeable in,” “has an instinctive grasp of,” or my favorite undefinable (but likely true in some cases) “just gets”) there’s certainly something to be said for being able to use labels professionally which make us appear to have some higher level of comprehension in our field (and in many cases this is true).

Here’s the kick in the pants — PR pros, and other professionals in the related communications fields, don’t really “know” anything either when it comes to this stuff that a first or second year wouldn’t.Can an experienced professional craft a story better – very likely. Do they have more sector contacts from years of practice – probably.  But at the end of the day, when you’re expecting the hit, it’s completely out of our control – whether that’s from someone who has 2 years of practice or 20, attended an ivy-league school or their local 4-year unaccredited university, has an APR or not.

Knowledge, at its basic, is probably best defined as a “justified true belief” of something.  A justified opinion or justified belief (“I’ve sold similar stories that have made it to the cover of top trades so I believe I can do it again”) is one thing.  We don’t know if the “true” part will happen until afterwards.

At best, the field we work in is a social science, as opposed to a hard science where you can remove all variables and get the same results time after time, year after year.  Public opinion and interest can be fickle, editors and editorial direction change, etc.  The introduction of new platforms (and SM isn’t the first – I’d bet the introduction of radio, television, “glossies,” etc. all had similar disruptive effects on the biz) adds new uncontrollable variables to our business that we can’t predict – ever.  Even putting aside public interest and opinion there’s simply no way to predict whether a larger, breaking story will bump yours from the date you expect it to run.

The point – anytime you’re in a comms meeting and hear someone use the word “know” (when referring to an end-game and not “I know Bob at the Times” or “I know the ad rates for that publication” – and even then, things change), put down your pen and start listening – it’s likely you’re being sold (or selling if you find yourself saying it) a bridge.

(And yes, sometimes we have to say it to portray confidence during a new business pitch — but be careful…)

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