06 Feb My So-Called Post-PC Life
I’ve owned a PC for as long as I can remember. I bought my first one – a big, rumbling HP tower and monitor – in 1995. This was back when AOL – that’s America Online, by the way – used to package free CDs in shrink wrap in just about every computer magazine sold at local newsstands. It was back when Netscape still not only existed, but had the largest browser share of market. In short – it was a while ago.
PCs have been part of my everyday home life since then. Sure, the models changed – I went from that HP to a Mac desktop to a Sony laptop to a Toshiba laptop and then, finally, a MacBook – but there was always one in the house.
That era ended the other day when I sold my three-year-old MacBook with the intention of doing something I never thought possible: using an iPad as my everyday personal computer.
The realization came slowly over the past few months, but it did come: between the iPad, my work computer, and smartphone, the MacBook simply wasn’t needed anymore. It became increasingly neglected, sitting forlornly on the kitchen counter or coffee table, but rarely actually used. Eventually, I ended up backing all of my important data up, both on physical media and the cloud, cleaned out the hard drive, and sent it off to the great beyond.
It feels weird, to be honest – almost like hearing that a long-lost friend who you rarely ever saw moved away, ensuring that now you really would never see him again. And it’s gotten me a bit nostalgic, thinking about how technology has changed our lives over the past few years – some for good, some for ill. Call me crazy, but I sometimes miss those busy Saturday nights fighting the crowds in the local Blockbuster Video store. And though I love my Nook, I can’t stand hearing news about the impending death of bookstores.
But, for the most part, I do think that technology has changed our lives for the better. This is particularly true in the public relations industry.
When I harken back to when I first started working in PR in 1993, I think of doing things that today’s younger professionals would consider insane. Printing out news releases by the hundreds, stuffing them into envelopes (in classic z-fold style, of course), running them through the mail machine and waiting days to follow up with reporters with the news. Faxing documents, and then calling to make sure the recipient received them. Sitting in production studios cutting b-roll rather than using electronic files. Collecting news clips in giant binders of clip books, and measuring those clips’ impact based upon arcane arts and sciences like the measurement of column space and placement within a publication.
Just thinking about how much time all of this took is making me woozy.
Contrast that to the communications tools we have at our disposal today. I’m not only talking about email. I’m referring to the ability to broadcast messages via webinars and blogs. The opportunity to instantly connect with journalists via Twitter and start dialogs with them through various forms of social media. Chances to completely bypass the media and engage directly with key stakeholders via a variety of channels.
All of this is also much more measurable and far more actionable than ever before. Tools allow us to easily track things like number of unique visitors, leads derived directly from news stories and press releases, blog readership trends, Followers, Likes and Plusses. And we can make adjustments on the fly based upon that data.
I guess what I’m saying is that the old ways of doing PR are sort of like my MacBook was at the end – heavy, slow, somewhat clunky, and prone to errors. And though I do miss it – and, to some extent, those days of communications yesteryear – I know that’s really only a sense of nostalgia setting in. Because while we did have some good times gathered around the conference table stuffing those envelopes, there’s nothing in the world that could make me go back.
– Pete Larmey