Stranger in a Strange Land
Kevin King here. Horn Group's "man in DC." Focusing today on the need (and value) of authenticity in strategic communication.
I caught a couple of minutes of Keith Olbermann's show last night during a piece on the impact of YouTube and social media on political campaigns. They showed a stream of clips of politicians saying and doing embarrassing, or downright dumb, things and talked about how it's becoming more difficult for public officials to hide from the camera and present only the best, and best scripted, versions of themselves.
The segment included comment from someone identified as a former White House media consultant who said that such direct access to politicians will hurt the democratic process. She said it will make it harder to get to know candidates because they will retreat and hide even more of themselves from the public eye until they don't ever appear in public without scripted comments or staged productions. Only in Washington can more immediate, unfettered access to government officials be positioned as actually bad for the people!
I mention this story because the subject of branding in the era of blogging came up last week during Horn Group's annual offsite meeting. John Siefert of Ogilvy and Ted Schadler of Forrester both focused on it in their presentations. The central theme of the discussion was that as communications mediums increase and the barriers between corporations (or politicians) and consumers (or constituents) break down, brand stewardship (how a brand is created, maintained and managed) gets dispersed. There's less value in meticulously crafted talking points, catchy slogans and celebrity endorsements because it's easier for people to see behind the curtain and impact the perception of company.
Now, I'm not saying there's no need for public relations and marketing communications (I've got a mortgage), but we (and our clients) need to think differently about what audiences value in the communication they receive and how that impacts the company's brand. Both Siefert and Schadler mentioned the importance of authenticity in communications -- be it PR, advertising or corporate blogs. Individuals and companies who engage in open and honest communications, even when mistakes are made, will build strong and positive brands over time.
I may be the only person in Washington who truly believes this, but SPIN IS OUT! Every time a client mentions something going on at their company, good or bad, and says "you guys spin that as you see fit," I cringe.
Say it with me, "WE DON'T SPIN!"
Effective strategic communications involves accurate, and authentic, communication of key messages, thoughts or ideas to a particular set of audiences (customers, analysts, influencers, etc.). While there are ways to position things in the most favorable light or encourage and support particular impressions, if that can't be supported by some central fact or does not ring true all the spin in the world won't help.
Now it's your job to send that message to politicians (and Washington media consultants) in November.
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