History in Hi-Def

Forty years ago this week, in the legendary “summer of love,” mankind took its first steps on the surface of the moon. This anniversary has been commemorated by online and social media outlets in a variety of ways; Google launched an addition to its Earth software feature, enabling users to take 3-D tour of the lunar surface, Mashable put together a moon landing timeline of YouTube clips and both “Apollo 11” and “Moon” were trending topics on Twitter.

The wealth of multimedia coverage of the anniversary is a testament to the ways in which technology is impacting traditional storytelling. While the people who watched Neil Armstrong’s first steps did so raptly in front of their television sets, this week we’re receiving updates on the anniversary and related celebrations—from traditional media sources and laypeople alike—via a variety of outlets that provide coverage of the news in real-time.

What would the coverage of the moonwalk be like if the event took place today? Surely each astronaut aboard the shuttle would have his or her own Twitter account, and would update followers with personal impressions on everything ranging from the temperature in the shuttle to what it feels like at zero gravity to what the moon looks like at close range. Instead of crowding around television sets to view the historic event, we’d be able to watch the video streaming live on our desktops and iPhones or listen to a podcast of NASA engineers explaining the significance of the event on our iPods.

Of course, the story would be the same, whether man first walked on the moon in 1969 or in 2009. But, were the landmark event to take place today, one can’t deny that the telling of the story would be fundamentally different.

And what does this mean for us as PR professionals? While we may never help our clients launch anything quite as historic as man’s first step in space, we can adapt our approach to ensure that we’re telling their stories in a way that resonates with today’s multimedia savvy audience. What do you think? Are we in the media industry poised to take (another) giant step for mankind?

-contributed by Kate Finigan. Follow her on Twitter @PRKateFin