Gutenberg for the 21st Century
IIP Publications (Pubs) show an example of a respected traditional product line that adapted to the new media w/o losing its way. People look to Pubs for useful content and their offerings have long been among the popular IIP products with our posts and audiences overseas. Generations of students have relied on the outline series and PAOs handed out printed publications to their contacts. Publications were among the first products to be put online and all of them are available in full text on America.gov. But these remained essentially one way communications in the old, pre-web 2.0 model.
The Pubs staff knows that a dialogue is a more effective way of winning friends and influencing people. Listening as well as talking is a sign of respect that new media audiences demand. Changing the paradigm from producing products to producing conversations is never an easy transition, but Pubs has significant advantages in this endeavor.
Most importantly, Pubs has content the audiences want to get and want to discuss. This is further enhanced by the provenance of most of the articles and chapters in a Pubs product. They are almost always written by outside experts. These experts come already equipped with their own audiences, points of view and networks of colleagues. There is a natural focus for dialogue in each of the articles.
Take the example of the most recent ePublication, Energy Efficiency: the First Fuel. Several of the articles stimulated me to think and want to respond. In many ways the response and the cross talk will be better than the articles themselves, since they will tap into the wider knowledge of the readers. This is the new world of PD 2.0, and we can be part of it if we have the courage to engage.
Pubs is working on this through Facebook, Twitter and other means. They well understand the need to be flexible and they do not have a "Facebook strategy" or a "Twitter Plan." Rather they are working out strategies that involve Facebook or Twitter while still taking advantage of the significant "old media" distribution network long in place, the one that works through posts, IRCs and printing distribution.
It is still early in the game for Pubs and the new media, but the staff was able to share a couple of insights. One is that micro-blogging, via Twitter, is easier and less time intensive than ordinary blogging, but it can produce significant results when linked back to an existing IIP publication. Another observation is that Facebook can serve as a central hub for other online products and activities. The advantages of Facebook are that it is easily available to customers all over the world and it is easy to update. Pubs also realizes that much of its product distribution will be outside IIP or USG channels. Since Pubs provides free content, the products are often copied and repurposed. Most of the publications are or soon will be available on platforms such as Google Books, Amazon Kindles or I-Phone aps, among others.
George Clack, who directs IIP Pubs shared some experience in thinking about a marketing plan for the new media. First is to indeed have a written plan. While you have to recognize that the plan will not be carried out in the detail you envision, having a plan allows everybody to riff off something that is organized and thought out.
This plan, as all plans should, begins with the end in mind. Interestingly, many planners forget this step and that, paraphrasing the Cheshire Cat, "if you don't know where you want to go, you will probably end up someplace else." But the direction must be light. We work with creative people and we have to let them be creative in their own ways. We must also recognize the MOST of the creativity available to us is outside our own organization. The new media allows us to tap into that creativity - if we allow it. That is the path Pubs is pursuing, and they are off to a good start.