Unfinished Empathy

This week, in our day job, we're helping to put the final touches to something called c&binet forum, an event which brings together 300 or so creative business leaders with technologists, financiers and international government officials to discuss the big issues facing their businesses.

One of the hot topics will be the changing status of 'the gatekeepers'- companies that by virtue of their scale and control of distribution have typically dominated the content industries. The digital age offers an opportunity for IP producers a direct route to their customers, they just have to work out how to get it to them and make money out of them. The implication of this is that, potentially, producers have to stop worrying about producing to meet the needs of one or two managers within those companies and start worrying about what the public wants.

This is potentially quite liberating for creative entrepreneurs and it's also one of the reasons why PR people are so excited about the impact of social media - it means that instead of supplicating ourselves before media 'gatekeepers' by pitching stories to grumpy journalists, we can put stuff out there online and let people decide for themselves whether they like it.

That's not to say that the editorial role of the media isn't still an important one, just that there are now alternatives. PR people sometimes send journalists terrible, poorly-written, poorly-targeted pitches and sometimes they are rightly laughed at by those journalists. But sometimes the journalist is just in a bad mood. Whatever the reasons, pitching stories is often a miserable right of passage for every aspiring PR person.

Blogging hasn't really overturned this system - all it's done is dilute it, by supplementing big gatekeepers with lots of smaller ones. Brockley Central therefore finds itself as a poacher turned gamekeeper. Having been scarred by the barbs of a hundred stroppy journalists, we try to be fair and polite to anyone who sends us a story, to respect that there is stuff that might not interest us, but will interest other people and to always respond curteously. To behave with a degree of empathy, if you will...

The other day we got this abortive pitch:

Not spotted anything on the likely part demolition of local Brockley School.I've been reading through some of the past blogs and think you are pro knock it down and put something big and new up. You don't seem to empathise with other resident's sensitive concerns. But it might be something people would like to know about, before thei

That's as far as it got. Presumably the pleasantries like hello, please or thank you were due to come at the end of his note. We emailed back asking for him to send the rest of it, but haven't had a response yet.

We reckon that what this person was talking about was this planning application for Gordonbrock School, which Cllr Luxton has been discussing on her blog.

Sue has her reservations about the application but summarises the reasoning behind it as being:

"To enable the school to go from 2.5 form entry to 3 form entry, which as well as creating much needed extra primary school places, avoids the need to have classes with mixed age groups. I'm pleased that it's proposed to retain parts of the Victorian school building, that the awful portacabins in the playground that are long past their sell-by date will finally be going and of course that more, larger classrooms will be built."

We'd urge anyone interested in this application to read full discussion on her blog.