I’ve had a number of robust discussions in recent weeks about the value of the old PR stand-by…the message platform. Most of my time in these discussions has been spent trying to clarify that the objective of these platforms is to inject some measure of consistency and order to the communication process. I have also spent a fair amount of energy arguing why it makes sense to proactively push out these desired messages. Pretty basic thinking, right? Not so much. The reaction on this topic has been interesting.

Beyond the folks who have never used a platform, there are others who fail to understand these messages need to be relevant, timely and credible to have any impact. They also need to be dynamic and flexible, adapting in both volume and tone depending on the receptivity and awareness of the target audience – whether it’s internal or external outreach. So just turning up the volume or frequency for a rigid, insular script of corporate slogans is of very limited use…not to mention that it’s fairly arrogant and obnoxious.

But it’s the other reaction that is most interesting…the one at the other end of the spectrum. Some professionals immersed in the world of social media question whether a message platform has become an irrelevant anachronism in this era of digital conversation, online communities and user-generated content. In effect, can a company still drive the agenda – or even steer a discussion – through the use of a defined, proactive script?

The answer, from my perspective, is yes…but with important qualifiers. The key is to look at communication as a dialogue, not a one-way megaphone (hello advertising!) There is still obvious value in thinking about what you want to say – and maybe even repeating it a few times – to get something across to your target audience. But you can’t do it in a vacuum. You need to listen before, during and after to gauge the resonance and traction of the messages. You need to adapt and refine your messages based on comments, questions and suggestions. Ideally, a message platform should be a starting point, not a permanent mantra.

To me the lesson is that PR tools can still be very relevant, but they have to catch up to the Web 2.0 environment.