The demise of Google Reader caused some angst recently, but not for me. I wasn’t a user of the service, so it got a shrug and I moved on. However, the rumor that Google Alerts has been acting up – and that this might be a harbinger that the service is next on the chopping block – is a whole different kettle of fish.
In the PR business, not much trumps being well-informed. PR people thrive on knowing the latest developments, as quickly as possible. Our clients count on it. Our bosses insist on it. The internet, smartphones and laptops have all become indispensable tools of our trade. The 24-hour news cycle feeds us endlessly. One could argue that the constant stream of information has contributed to the appearance of PR practitioners on the list of “Most Stressful Professions” but that’s a different story for another time.
Since we can’t ignore the existence of technology, I and most of my colleagues try to embrace it. Google Alerts are one of the many ways we keep track of news, trends, clients, competitors, journalists and just about anything else we can type into Google’s query box. For some the volume of alerts outstrips other emails in their inbox. Even a strategic user has a fair number of them when they sit down at their computers. They don’t catch everything we need to know and require much more research, knowledge and context to be truly valuable, and that’s really what clients need from PR. So they serve as a starting point for public relations work, not a finished product.
The Financial Brand, a provider of marketing advice to the bank and credit union industry, recently posted an open letter to Google on this subject in which they state, “Google has become distracted with “Shiny New Syndrome,” wasting tremendous amounts of time and energy (yours and ours) on ideas that fall way outside the search model. And yes, that does mean Google+.” I certainly hope that Google takes some advice that we often give to clients and “sticks to the knitting,” doing what it does best, internet search. Its competitors are watching closely to see if an opportunity is presenting itself.
There are many other ways to track and stay abreast of news and announcements, but Google Alerts has become a bona fide tool in PR. If Google is listening (and I know they are), leave the alerts alone – lots of us are big fans.
Would you miss Google Alerts if they went away?