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How important is Publicity in today's PR?



Interview with Yanina Dubeykovskaya, Content Director of World Communication Forum in Davos - “Com on Top”

Q: Perhaps only people who are public figures today might have to deal with the problem of Privacy and Publicity – it doesn’t stand before mere social network users who share in public the same what they share in private, since they share with the same people. Mere users wouldn’t be so bothered by the privacy / publicity issue. What is your own impression?
A: I agree it used to be like that five years ago, but now everything has changed. There are housewives, whose culinary blogs for recipes cumulate thousands of visitors. Due to the social networks everyone has become a “public figure”… and we all are such, on Facebook.
As for the issue with keeping active/passive contacts in social networks – it again comes to the eternal struggle between quantity and quality. In the networks you can reach a much larger number of people and you can develop your own communication environment. Allow me to share two moments from my personal Facebook activity – amid my contacts I found people with whom “active” communication had been lost, but I realized we still had the spiritual connection between us. The other example is that a friend of mine went on a holiday to a place I was visiting at the same time –had she not published her current location, we wouldn’t have had the chance to meet and spend some time offline. Social networks allow us to select people easily and effectively and define those who are “close” and those who are “far”, regardless of the actual distance in real life.

Q: Confidentiality has become even more valid and it is the fresh ‘topic of the day’. What do you think of someone’s private life being made transparent, and of the free access to personal data? Many people render their data on ruffle sheets in stores, in social networks and sites... How should we fight this?
A: I think that transparency, in general, leads toward increase and elevation of ethics, rather than to total dependency or control. Transparency actually contributes to a better world, in general.
Q: Could it be a new stage in the human race development, when privacy is even more difficult to protect, so that publicity would soon become the norm?
A: Certainly! I’m confident that we are at a new level of ethics and development as human beings, as a society, as professionals. The norm obviously tends to point towards increase of publicity. Such rapid changes normally generate gaps in understanding the potential of this process. Furthermore, there are generation gaps that need to be overcome as well. Despite all our competences, we still cannot be viewed as “digital natives”, yet this will be the future reality of our children.

Q: Could we say that full transparency actually equals privacy in contemporary society?
A: If so, this would be interesting, indeed. However, full transparency is impossible – on top of that, it is unnecessary, and sometimes even scandalous. Privacy will continue to exist (luckily), just like silence does. Without pauses, a speech would lack its expressiveness, or its sense, even.

Q: What exactly did you mean by “new ethics”? How should we divide ethics into “old” and “new”?
A: I meant that what was earlier considered unethical is now counted as the norm. For instance: would posting the photo of your sleeping husband be ethical today? If you write my honey-bunny’s sleeping, it could be considered OK, but if it says finally alone, the ethics could be questioned. How do I interpret “new ethics”? Well, it is the very concept of good and evil, of decent and indecent – developing before our eyes, while we bear in mind today’s increasing transparency and publicity.

Q: Why, in your opinion, is privacy a rarity these days? Would that be the tendency in our liberated and open 21st century?
A: I think there are several reasons – the increased connectivity, the speed of information’s dissemination, the nonlinearity of communications, and the rapid growth of each single person’s influence onto the public space. Publicity is a great temptation – difficult to resist and impossible to keep locked for your own use only!

Q: How does the Privacy & Publicity issue affect modern PR?
A: Since we have all now been given the opportunity to go public, this issue has become crucial. Press-secretaries and media relations have become somewhat outdated today. Talent, trend-orientation and the Internet would suffice.
The actual question is what to leave hidden, behind the comment band on Facebook or Twitter, and what would be necessary to publish immediately. This has become a daily routine for millions of people who aim at solving this issue, starting from the internal answer to: Where exactly should publicity come to an end and leave space for your own private life? In social networks this seldom happens as a result of any deep reflection – it is more likely that the users follow the old law of imitation there. Friends write about their breakfast menu and I drop a note about mine, or you see a heap of re-tweets of an old joke, and it instantly gets imprinted onto your memory.
The «Privacy vs. Publisity» debate will be among the key events of the World Communication Forum «Communication on TOP» held in Davos in February, 2012.
And the revolutionary essence of this process lies in the internal changes experienced by millions of people, rather than in the fact that in some networks there appear endless numbers of ‘naked’ (in all senses) characters. We are witnessing massive examples of people involved into public action, and media today ceases to be a strictly professional public niche, in order to become an intrinsic feature of anyone who decides to place a photo within a particular network.
Media, in its modern sense, may become absolutely inherent in a single person whose short tweets amount to thousand per day, while a traditional provincial newspaper could hardly be called mass-media, if being non-influential, unnecessary, non-inspiring, and parasitizing on PR clichés…
Q: What exactly do you mean by “parasitizing on clichés”?
A: Well, you know – press services write, newspapers print, sometimes even for free, and nothing happens out of it. Neither company PR, not papers are any longer trusted. Only to counterparts and colleagues there seems to be what to report as certain activity…

Q: So, is PR dying today?
A: On the contrary – it is just being reborn. It has become subtler, cleverer, and much better. The inner weight of creativity and positive insight has never been as valuable as now. The same applies to good reputation and the role of the single person, in general – from historical aspect, too.
As for the new type of company publicity, we can observe a sharp break between the external image created by talented corporate communicators and the internal life of a corporation, which cannot any longer be shaped by codes of ethics or invest-bank guidelines. As a compensation, however, the value of a Company Face is gaining weight – alas, this person is obliged to project an impression of being somewhat crazy, charismatic, inspiring, and ‘living’ online. I do believe that we live in an epoch of titans, similar to the Renaissance. The leader of a company should definitely try and go public, instead of delegating article/post-writing and quotations to the press-service centre…
The in-house communicator’s role today implies involving the company publics, clients, and shareholders in the production of a positive information stream reflecting the enterprise and its products. It also implies coordination of your own content production. Your brand is what your clients think of you, nothing more and nothing less. If you have over 10 employees, internal communications become public. Internet privacy is no longer trendy or actual.

Q: Are there any changes in the mechanisms of reputation building and management, too?A: I guess today we are all waiting for that particular coinage which shall come to substitute "management & control". It is clear already that the diversity and multi-directions of modern communications can no longer be the object of management & control. I think we are now living in what seems to be a media-information continuum, a cloud of connotations and public positions, a network of newsmakers, and even jokes, and certainly everything which might be featured under the term «Sexy». It is no coincidence that Social Media efficiency measurement is in fact among the most important issues, as well as understanding the navigation of the information streams in a network. This is brand-new environment – not just mere information noise, but the organic space for public display of the best among us: yes, unfortunately, today there is a necessity to be at the same time beautiful, clever, talented, and sincere. It is no longer possible to convince someone that you are conducting an ethical business, if you deviate from the true essence of ethical business.

Q: This sounds very optimistic, but in fact there are people who really suffer from the absence of privacy and also from the increased transparency of the world – how would you interpret that?A: This is true, the new information environment is often tangled in its net-like structure, and the information wandering across this environment often regenerates its own contrast reflection. That is why the borderline between Privacy and Publicity is more of a systematic character, and the border of intimacy is probably displaced… Yet, in the meantime, the core value of what remains hidden behind the public borderline extremely grows in size!

The goal of the Forum is to unite trend-makers and influencers from the communications elite and to provide a platform for discussion on the future development of communications and their role in business, society and politics, to provoke in-depth analysis of the form and content of interaction between business professionals, the media and society, on the one hand, and the state, on the other. What we need is a global network for distributing best practices in crisis, change or reputation management, as well as useful strategies in investor relations, employee motivation, government lobbying, etc. Equally necessary is to foresee the upcoming communication trends and secure a successful method for analyzing problems, finding solutions and offering best tools to serve top managers in their decision-making or daily professional tasks and, through the exchange of ideas and opinions, help them improve their own corporate and social efficiency.

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