October 26, 2018

Is Slow the New Fast? What the prospect of ‘Tortoise’ means for PR


“It takes 20 years to make an overnight success,” Eddie Cantor once said. But in today’s fast paced business world, speed is king and disruption an aim. At a global level, companies in every sector seem obsessed with the notion of ‘shaking up an industry’ or ‘taking it by storm’ to the point of religious mantra!

Taking on the challenge of going against this growing trend, former Times Editor and BBC News Director, James Harding’s new venture ‘Tortoise’ proposes to shake up the media industry at a deliberately glacial pace.

According to Harding, ‘Tortoise’ has been conceived to be a different type of newsroom anchored on ‘open journalism’ and covering “not the news as it happens, but when it’s ready.” These pitch lines from ‘Tortoise’s kickstarter page led Harding to exceed his funding goal of raising £75K overnight.

Could it be that the ease with which Harding raised his funds is telling of a sort of ‘speed fatigue’?

In a fast-moving world, where ‘instant’ dominates, it seems that there is a need for slower news that eschew ticker updates and push notifications. But what does this then mean for Public Relations?

‘Tortoise’ lists on his website a number of reasons making the case for ‘slow journalism’. One of the standout points, though, is the one alluding to the opportunity to look at a story from all angles. In doing so, its aim is to democratise the reporting process and ensure everyone’s voice is heard.

By focusing on the “big five” forces shaping people’s lives in the 21st century – technology, natural resources, identity, finance and longevity – Harding’s objective is to create a platform that includes communities in narratives on topics they aren’t currently privy to.

The notion that slowing down the news flow would make communications professionals’ lives easier, might be deceptive, though.

Even if all media adopted a slow reporting approach, businesses would still need to provide fast responses to corporate or industry issues, so not to allow rumours and speculation to grow, or to prove they’re on top of the latest developments. Both would demand from communications professionals their speedy, usual reaction.

However, ‘Tortoise’s objective is also to make sense of today’s world through journalism that offers insight and solutions. And anyone who can help with that, no matter at what pace, stands a decent chance at getting into journalists’ good books.

Ultimately, in a world that adopts the concept of news reporting used by ‘Tortoise’, the challenges for communicators remain unchanged.

Whether it is a slow media platform or a busy newsroom, the search is likely to continue for the spokespeople who can provide insight and analysis on key themes and issues in a succinct and timely fashion.

That is not a time-bound requirement, and is likely to remain unchanged as time goes by.