Societal Issues Communicators Should Think About in 2010

Communicators and our audiences have shifted focus over the past couple of years. Everybody is looking for the next breakthrough, the next big idea. I am not saying that there is something wrong with that, but there should be more to it. How will the next breakthrough or big idea help:

-Your business?

-Your audience?

-Your community?

-Your society?

If the breakthrough and/or new idea is worthwhile, then a good answer should be able to be applied to the above questions. Below though, are four themes that I believe communicators should focus on for our feeble society to stay at least near the top of industrialized nations.

1. Increased Incentive for the best and brightest in the Arts and Sciences

Yes, this is a business/economic lover encouraging the next best and brightest to focus on issues other than business, finance and the like. Why? Read this article that came out in November 2009. It highlights that the sectors that help our society (education, science, sociology, psychology, social work, etc) suffered a massive brain drain from the elite colleges and universities. There simply wasn’t enough incentive (salary, notoriety) for the top brains to attract them. There are too many of us business-minded people out there already (law of diminishing returns would also apply here- the more brain power going to business, the less reaped benefit for every next businessperson entering the field). My extreme scenarios:
-The first elementary school that offers a base salary of $1 million dollars.
-A school district governed like a corporation’s board of investors.
-Teachers actually invested in like stock; go to specific schools around the nation.

I like said, they are extreme. But something needs to be done. And communicators, let’s use our voice to help that happen.

2. More Attention on Small Businesses

The coined phrase “too big to fail” is probably the worst phrase we had to hear this decade (actually it’s a toss up between that, and anything that came out the mouth of Paris Hilton).

Quite frankly, these organizations got “too big to fail” due to our society’s reluctance to work with the little guys.

With millions of businesses out there, you’re telling me that less than 100 businesses crippled our economy?

Supporting small business increases the survival of our economy, cost of living, and overall quality of life. Go local, help the nation.

Few tips:

-Banking: If you decide to trust a bank again, use local and regional.

-B2B: The blame goes to small businesses too. We got to work together to stay relevant.

-Marketing: From my post, “Open letter to Charlotte…” statistics are there stating the dismal online performances- FREE performances actually- of small businesses. Contact those businesses that have dedicated to work with you. (Insert self-plug here).

3. Communicators: Can We Stop with the “Thought Leader” Nonsense?

Marketing, advertising, and public relations combined is the language of business; large and small. Of course we are going to have forums and conferences about “the state of marketing, advertising, public relations,yadda yadda”, but let’s get back to basics here. This industry was created because many businesspeople need assistance getting their message out. Period. Why not focus on the biggest segment of the U.S. Economy (psst, that’s small business)?

In any case, we, communicators, make the world go round. If business controls government (which it does), and marketing/communications is the language of business (which it is), it seems like we got some work to do.

Why Political Correctness is LAME

Oh wait, does that offend you?

Deal with it.

Why is it that people are so afraid to offend people anymore? I grew up learning that people and organizations will have its disagreements, that that nothing was wrong with that. Perhaps I was mistaken.

This new wave of boredom and suffocation of free thought is attacking the communications industry. This ‘American’ market has gotten so uptight, that if someone even mutters something that could be taken the wrong way (cough, articulate, cough), there is a monster uproar. Here are a few issues I believe deserve the most attention:

Race:

Probably the longest battle fought when it comes to being political correct. A black or Hispanic person walks into a room, and all of a sudden the white crowd starts stumbling over their words. Even worse, companies and other organizations disapprove of anything targeting ethnic groups (even when it is ‘okay’ to do so).

Calm down. Race is only a big deal when you make it one. Our society’s fear of attacking it only makes it a bigger taboo. What ever happened to celebrating differences? That’s cool too, you know.

To think that if creative shops did all-white ads, all-black ads, all-Latino ads, they would be put under fire as being racist? Really?  If the shop came out and said that it hated the other races, then that “ASSumption” would be realized. If not, give them the benefit of the doubt. Besides, diversity is so in right now, those businesses that refused to work with others would be either pigeonholed, or phased out economically.

But wouldn’t be sweet if that didn’t even matter??

Body Composition (Skinny vs. the Fat Kids):

Ah, cue fashion industry. I realize that this issue dealt with mainly the overall health of young women; who idolized these super skinny and super unhealthy images of models. So I am just going to say these couple things-

As long as you’re healthy:

-being skinny is OKAY

-being full is OKAY

-being big is OKAY

If you love yourself, who the hell cares what other people think?

But will organizations come right out and say that? Of course not. Being ‘forward’ and ‘direct’ is so brash. Let’s go with “real beauty campaigns” and the “real woman”

I want to see Dunkin’ Donuts come out with a group of 7 300-pound men going to town on Boston Cremers with the subtitle, “Wednesday.”

Yes.

Sexual Orientation:

According to this report about sexual orientation, four percent of the U.S. voting population self-identified themselves as something other than heterosexual.

Why aren’t there any gay/lesbian ads out there? Why the stark difference between the straight landscape, and the gay/lesbian underground?

Whether you agree with it or not, it is a market that deserves attention (the arab population in the U.S. is a little over 1%, yet they get a bunch of attention).

Put your big pants on America. If you want to be the leader of the Free World, do not stray away from issues at home.

And communicators, why are we SO afraid to push the envelope? Back in the hayday of advertising and marketing, we were setting the trends! Now we’re lucky if we can keep up.

I’m very disappointed is us. Let’s do better.

Communicators: Be Advocates for Your Community

By now, I am sure most people have heard the phrase “Think Globally, Act Locally.”

I am curious though as to how many people have taken that phrase to heart.

My guess? Not many.

Take Charlotte for example. It is known as one of the financial capitals in nation, and the largest financial center in the Southeast. Though that is the case right now, it has been reported that its board of directors may move the headquarters of Bank of America to New York.

Hmm.

With all the financial resources in Charlotte, NC, many small businesses here are still having trouble receiving the capital needed to grow.

Double Hmm.

But the rest of my angst is not with the bankers, loan “officers” and the like. I wonder where the communicators are in Charlotte that should be calling citizens to move to action?

I have been in very insightful conversations with the small business incubator Area 15 lately. How refreshing it is when you see businesspeople truly trying to make a difference. They’ve been missing one piece to the puzzle- attention.

Which brings me to the central point of the post today. Public relations, marketing and other communications have been evolving for hundreds of years. But the reason why this industry was created should not be lost: to spread a message that will improve the lives of a community.

In Ancient Greece there were those great orators, Sophists and philosophers. During the Middle Ages, Town Criers spread the news about new ideas and happenings. And today, we have a flourishing industry but we are deviating from the purpose.

In every community there will be Doers, Storytellers, and Naysayers. Unfortunately, the Doers never really get the attention they deserve. That’s why us storytellers need to assist with the cause.

Society can only progress when you improve home. Communicators, tell the world how local businesses are getting it done. Tell the people that without these hard-working folks, Corporate America would never exist.

We need to work better at promoting our neighbors. Let’s show the world what our communities are doing.

Thank you, David Mullen

Us young communicators need to stick together. So with that in mind, please read David Mullen’s blog about how to get your efforts noticed by the “powers-that-be.”

He reinforces what I have started preaching about: to survive and grab attention, we need to get back to basics and rely on metrics (David referred to ‘data’, but its practically the same).

Many communicators have left this element out of their bag of tricks- why? Perhaps they got too immersed in being the first in new and social media? Running down the next biggest account?

Whatever the case may be, David is absolutely right. Ground your communications strategy in research, and your boss and/or client will not be able to question your activities.

Great post sir!

A Question of Morality

The past couple of years have been tough for the theory of morality. Business leaders, politicians, and international athletes have had their ethics and personal dealings called into question. According to the “public figure” clause we all learn in media and business law, those actions have every ‘right’ to be called.

Why does society care?

When I ponder this question, several thoughts come to mind, but I’ll take this time to concentrate on the most potent. The movie Scarface comes to mind.

Cut to scene: Tony Montana (Scarface, played by Al Pacino) is at dinner with his coked-out wife and security detail. He’s drunk and dirty. A broken arm in a sling and he’s slumped in a chair at a five-star restaurant like he’s at home in Lay-Z-Boy. Montana sees that he’s grabbing attention and yells (from IMdb):

“What you lookin’ at? You all a bunch of fuckin’ assholes. You know why? You don’t have the guts to be what you wanna be? You need people like me. You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, “That’s the bad guy.” So… what that make you? Good? You’re not good. You just know how to hide, how to lie. Me, I don’t have that problem. Me, I always tell the truth. Even when I lie. So say good night to the bad guy! Come on. The last time you gonna see a bad guy like this again, let me tell you. Come on. Make way for the bad guy. There’s a bad guy comin’ through! Better get outta his way!”

I hope you see where I’m going with this. I do not think that this question of morality is blowing up our news channels, papers and radio because the majority of listeners are actually offended. I think it is society’s way of throwing celebrities under the bus so they can show the mass populous “Look at them…you are not that bad.”

The book of odds shows that close to 50 percent of males will cheat or will have cheated in a relationship. Other places show that women have turned to substances and materials to fill voids in their marriages, relationships, and everyday lives.

So you have the nerve to punish these people so YOU feel good about yourself?

Wow.

Before you go out and spend hours watching people’s lives unravel on ABC, how about you dedicate time building up your own? I am no different, there is always room for improvement in the moral category.

Let’s focus on those people and figures doing great things. Shift this unhealthy obsession with lust, adultery, and violence and showcase people living seemingly upright lives.

Believe me, the media will stop showing this crap if YOU stop watching it.

Fact.

Do Your Clients Reflect Your Business Philosophy?

As a business owner,  I, like you, understand that during these times why many would think that any business is good business. That phone shouldn’t stop ringing. Your email is full with requests for proposals and meetings.

I am here to tell you that philosophy of business is inaccurate.

Getting clients is good-nay- great. A business owner should always look for ways and markets to expand. But that is not the only thing a business owner should be looking for.

Are the clients you are attracting and retaining fit your business philosophy?

Not an easy question. And perhaps an even tougher answer.

For example, The Charlotte Agency‘s goal is to attract the most talented businesses and help them grow and stay in Charlotte. We want business to start booming again in the Queen city, and for that to happen, small business needs help. A lot of help. Does our clientele match? Yes it does- so far so good.

How can a business owner, or new business develop know if a certain organization will match a business philosophy? Below lists a few ways.

1. The “how we work” talk

In the beginning of every courtship, one has to test the waters. Tell your prospective client exactly what your mission is, why you started this business, and where you see it going. Make sure you ask those same questions to the client.

2. Put it in the Contract

If the conversation set both parties at ease, that’s fantastic. However, it is always good to protect yourself from any future predicaments. Noting that you will only work with those who follow and/or fit your business philosophy will weed out those who won’t.

Why is this important? It’s simple. Like a friendship, you are judged by what businesses and businesspeople who choose to associate. If you decide to partner up with someone with questionable business ethics, what is the rest of the business community supposed to think about your ethics? Even if your ethics appear to be stellar, you are immediately guilty with association.

Choose your clients carefully. Think long term, and think about your business’ image. Sometimes the “bottom line” isn’t the most important.

(Sidenote: I wrote an article comparing starting a business to one’s first date. check it out at http://www.smallbizbee.com)