Wow, it’s been a long time, but I’ve got something important to share. Do you know someone who has lost their job recently–a friend, family member, acquaintance or even mere stranger? Please consider checking in and seeing how they’re doing. Maybe you know someone they can talk to, or maybe you are exactly the person they need to talk to. It’s rough out there, but we got each other, right? Pass it along 🙂
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As the economic crisis accelerates this new year, several economists believe a fundamental lack of trust is also at fault.
“While trust is fundamental to all trade and investment, it is particularly important in financial markets, where people depart with their money in exchange for promises,” the economists write. “Promises that aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if there is no trust.”
As political, financial and corporate leaders struggle to come to grips with responding to a problem that at this point does not have a clear solution, it seems to me responsible communications professionals are needed now more than at any recent time in our history. Not to spread lies, confusion or propaganda, as some cynics might allege, but instead to build trust and confidence through well-crafted, informed and transparent messaging.
What we have right now is an event that appears to be of the historical magnitude of a world war, Great Depression or 9/11. Unlike those times in our history, however, news is not brought to us via just the newspaper, radio or even cable news. Conversations travel unfiltered and uncontrolled across the globe in mere minutes. Simultaneously, we have lost a great many journalists, the ones whose job it was to be Gatekeepers. Their outlets shut down, shrinking advertising venues. While economists for 70 years have considered why our economy tanked and then stagnated for 10 years in the 1930s, as a communications professional I wonder how different history might have been if those poignant, amazing newspaper photos of the Dust Bowl or unemployment lines were transmitted instantly via blogs, Twitter and Facebook, instead.
Thing is, I have no idea. And it sort of scares me.
It seems most economists believe responding to the global economic depression we’re currently embroiled in is tied to many different factors. Any plan that is devised is likely to be messy. It’s likely not to work some of the time. It’s likely to cause contraversy. It’s likely to be massive.
So where is the comprehensive communications plan that tells people why we need to do this, how we’re going to do this and how we’re doing when we do it? This economic stimulus plan needs a brand and it needs a philosophy people can get behind, like “Change we can believe in.” It needs to be the Nike of job creation. It needs to take the economic concept of “zero lower bound” and translate it to, “Don’t freak out. Go ahead a spend a little extra this month in Target.” It can’t be bullshit. It needs to have strong, current, truthful, transparent and positive messaging. It needs to embrace old media and new media.
What is shaping up right now is one of the largest public policy initiatives of all time, yet it is being communicated and advocated in the old style, via press conferences, behind-the-scenes meetings and stops at Meet The Press–all of which are very important, but very old fashioned. So far, I have been impressed with President Obama and his progressive takes on transparency and public relations, but for I think $819 billion dollars is going to demand more than weekly YouTube vlogs.
Do you remember this video? Debuted a couple months before the election, this was the first time that I thought Barack Obama had a very good chance of winning the election. The campaign had an astounding grasp of imagery and presentation, using words, art and music to stir emotions–most often focusing on “hope,” a cornerstone of Obama’s message.
But now that we have entered the dark days of a recession/depression, I wonder what happened to that hope? What happened to the energy that pulsed through real and digital communities, pushing people to hit the streets and canvas their neighborhoods? We need that positive excitement now more than ever, and I don’t mean just volunteering to help folks who need it but just during our everyday lives–at work, at the store, at a basketball game, on a walk.
While economists and politicians focus on fine-tuning financial bailouts and beefing up economic stimulus, the one area no one is talking about is attitude. I believe that advertising and PR should be an integral part of our recovery. With the inauguration of a new president, we should be embrace a new “brand,” and what better message is there right now than “hope?”
Where do you think the news business is going? Newspapers are in danger of closing all over the country. TV stations are cutting their staffs. The media play as important a role as ever in the our world’s ongoing discussions about the events shaping our existence.
But what does the future hold? This a question I have pondered with my friends from near the first day I started writing for a newspaper and I saw that a blood letting was ahead. Before long I’d enter the world of PR, but with my close ties to the media remaining professionally and personally through friendships, the future of news has always been top of mind.
I’ve seen some interesting ideas recently, including creating an iTunes for newspapers. Jack Shafer at Slate analyzes the idea, as first proposed by David Carr at the NY Times. Another fascinating idea comes from Detroit where the News and Free Press have announced they will soon stop home delivery of their print newspapers and will focus online. Some have called this “madness.”
But in a world where advertising is shrinking and changing, what is a publisher or editor to do?