Remember when “for immediate release” meant anything but? Early in my career, it often meant days, weeks or sometimes even months in the future. I’m glad those days are gone, and evidently I am not alone. There is a new level of excitement, almost frenzy, cascading throughout all aspects of our society. We’ve all embraced this new environment where organizations and individuals are encouraged to share and engage in real time—and expect nothing less in return. We’re redefining what it means to be immediate, and the energy is palpable.
With that energy comes an insatiable desire to be part of the action and not be left behind. Some of us have jumped into the fray successfully. Many more—perhaps caught up in the moment—are tripping over themselves, being everywhere at once just to be everywhere at once. They’re unwisely abusing the power of this new medium. Instead of creating value, their messages become invasive, interruptive and unwelcome, which is the antithesis of what this era has to offer. With an infinite variety of options to connect at our disposal, combined with the fear of missing out on the valuable opportunities others appear to be taking advantage of, it seems too many of us have completely missed the point.
And what, exactly, is the point? In the midst of all of this speed and technology, we can’t forget that it’s really all about people. They are still at the center, and while our methods and strategies are changing, the heart of what we do is not: informing people, persuading people and connecting people with each other. These are the same goals we’ve always had, and we need to look beyond the technology and speed, and stay true toward achieving those goals.
We need to create meaningful engagement by intimately reaching people at different places and at different moments. To make those connections, we still need breadcrumbs like Hansel and Gretel. But right now, the forest floor is littered with them and the least valuable thing you can do is just wantonly add more. You need your path to stand apart. Instead of putting the target on the technology or on consumers, put the target on the back of your brand. Put it where interested parties can find you. Show up where individuals are already consuming messaging and offer something that is useful, personal, relevant, timely and credible. There’s no one-size-fits-all for everyone—being timely or personal can mean completely different things for different people. You need to be able to define those traits for your brand and your stakeholders, and have the resources in place to monitor real-time conversations and identify openings to jump in and participate.
The true measure of success can’t be captured with a stopwatch or in the quantity of the content; it’s in the strength of the relationships that are developed. One of the most important functions of brands is to help people make choices, and as we move forward, that’s only going to become more important. So make your engagement valuable. Make it individual. Make it resonate in real time and over time. That would be success.