Sam Ruby: The New Public Relations Tim Bray: The new PR pipeline is a lot shorter, simpler, and wider:

  1. Senior management works out a company’s goals and messages.
  2. Management works hard to make sure that the employees understand them.
  3. The people who are really doing the work tell the story to the world, directly.

I have one problem with this. To figure out what it is, note the use of the word “works” in the first two bullets. Now apply the third bullet.

Different sorts of work, Sam - and you run the risk of sounding cynical :). Yes, sometimes management is operating in a clue-free zone, and doubtless both Sam and Tim have been around long enough to have worked in that sort of situation at least once.

On the other hand, take the case where senior management does have definite goals. Sometimes - maybe even somewhat often - the folks at the bottom “really doing the work” know that parts of those goals do not make sense. What needs to happen is that information needs to flow up from the folks with the greater specific knowledge to the folks trying to work out the meaningful overall goals. Odds are there are or should be folks in the middle who can digest and combine the information flowing up.

Put differently, if the message from the top does not make sense, then the folks at the bottom need to work on pushing information up the chain. Oddly enough I have a specific (constructive) example, but since my present employer has no policy with regards to weblogs, I will not write about it…

Sometimes the flow of information up the chain does not work. If the company approves of employee’s writing about company issues, then employee weblogs become a fallback or failsafe. If there is a problem that just isn’t making up the management chain (say a PHB in the middle somewhere), then airing issues in weblogs gives upper management a chance at a reality check.

I do think that Tim’s model makes sense.