The long and the short of it

Happy New Year.

I recently read an article about how the short-term political message cycle, and it prompted me to consider how we as public relations professionals will manage this in the future.

There is no doubt that the short-form message, the 30-second sound-bite and the less-than-24-hour news cycle are here to stay.

Some say that the long-form argument and message is extinct.

Do I agree? No, for the following reasons:

  1. You need the long to create the short. Define and create the long-form version, based on sound and differentiated positioning.
  2. The short-form might be a fad. Easier to start long and then condense, rather than be caught short.
  3. Audiences deserve the long-form version. To think otherwise is condescending to audiences to say the least. You have something to say, so concentrate resources on developing a message compelling and relevant enough to interest your audience. The audience seeks content of interest, and some audiences are specifically searching for the information you have.
  4. Short-term hits are like sugar-hits. They last for a short while and then dissipate. Sure, the audience wants more, but the low-GI version is more satisfying and less transient.
  5. You can’t actually make a sale in 30 seconds, and you can’t govern based on 30-second sound bites (even if you win an election on them).
  6. The long-form gives you room to manoeuvre. Short-form messages are too binary: the audience either agrees or disagrees. That’s it. The long-form is more subtle,  open to changing messages on the fly to respond to the feedback and comments from the audience. You can convince an audience with the long-form message. You can only rally or alienate an audience with the short-form.
  7. Long-form lets you control the debate. If you’re in a conversation, you’re part of the debate. If you rely on the short-form, you’re either first in the queue, in which case the other side will be asked immediately for their perspective, or you’re second in the queue, in which case your argument is already framed by someone else. Define and control the debate, set and own the agenda, starve the other side of as much oxygen as possible.
  8. Use the short-form as tactics, the long-form as strategy. Use the short-form to grab their attention, the long-form to keep it.


About alansmithoz

Head of Strategic Business Communications at Australian social analytics technology company Digivizer, with a background in corporate public relations and marketing. I do what I do because I believe communications can make a difference.
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