While we’ve still got the relatively clean slate of January 2013, and most of the year is before us, let’s take an honest look at what’s happening in the world of communications. It’s time to face some uncomfortable truths, because – well, because you won’t feel like doing that in February, a month that tests everyone’s patience. So here goes.
1.Most corporate communications are a waste of time and money. When was the last time that you read a communication of any kind from a corporation that stopped you in your tracks? What with group think, legal concerns, and a lack of passion, most corporate communications are about as exciting as those terms and conditions I just clicked “agree” to on the iTunes store – without reading. Who has the time? Let’s face it, we all long ago did a time-value calculation for corporate communications and decided that anything with a zero in the equation was worth exactly that.
2.That upcoming speech that you’re going to put so much private angst into is already a non-starter as far as most of the audience is concerned. Of course audiences want you to succeed, because it means that they haven’t completely wasted their time. But their expectations are low-to-none because they’ve been burned so many times before. Your speech is already a victim of all the bad speeches that have gone before. Unless you’re prepared to reveal some passion and say things that no one else can say, you’re not going to grab those nice, glassy-eyed people sitting in front of you.
3. The higher up you are in an organization, the less likely it is that anyone will tell you the truth. ‘Yes men’ have been around a long time, but the phenomenon has only gotten worse with the increasing speed of business, the leanness and meanness of staffing levels, and the difficulty everyone has just getting their own jobs done. Who’s going to bother to speak truth to power? It’s too hard, too dangerous, and too time-consuming.
4. The higher up you are in an organization, the less likely it is that you want to hear the truth. The bubble of power is highly seductive. I’ve worked with many executives, and it’s rare one that has both the stomach and the rigor to go for real, difficult truths about the state of things in their own organizations or customers. After a while, you begin to believe your own hype, and then you get to a point where you don’t want anything else to be true.
5. Modern media is increasingly focused on telling us what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. As the media fragments, and people opt more and more for the news that confirms their world views, media outlets desperate to stay alive have made a bargain with the devil. They’ve opted to serve the embedded narratives of various segments of the population. In other words, right wingers get right wing news, left wingers get left wing news, and so on. The result is increasingly mutual incomprehension, fear, and loathing. And an increasingly large divide between the political parties and their willingness to compromise to get anything done.
Let’s take a vow to push the truth this year, even when it’s uncomfortable. Not in anger, because it’s too easy to mistake the one for the other. Let’s keep it civil, but let’s resolve to be honest with one another, open to the facts, and willing to move forward.