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Friday / November 22.
HomeOpinionsBreaking Humpty Dumpty in a post-truth era: Why communicators need to evolve rapidly

Breaking Humpty Dumpty in a post-truth era: Why communicators need to evolve rapidly

Frank Shaw

 

Remember when companies were seen as vehicles to drive commerce? Today, the gauge of success is doing good, and demonstrating how your company or brand impacts your community and the world.

Frank Shaw, Microsoft

 

Every age needs a muse. And in this post-truth era, I have found ours – Humpty Dumpty by way of Lewis Carroll, who famously said: “When I use a word it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

As communicators, we rely on a stable view of what words mean, so we can trust media influencers and our readers to correctly interpret our words and accept our facts. With the near-instant spread of intentionally inaccurate or misleading stories it’s hard for brands to build trust – and even harder to recover it if it’s lost. For communicators, perceptions are built by having a clear strategy to protect our brand and being able to build trust.

Once upon a time, communicators worried about rumors and urban stories that could damage our brands. Was the symbol in Arm & Hammer meant to reference the Illuminati? Did KFC change its name because it couldn’t legally call its product “chicken”? And my favorite – did Bill Gates promise in a personal message to pay $1,000 to every person who beta tested his new “email tracking software”?

Today, some use social media platforms not just to spread rumors, but to intentionally damage individuals and institutions. Consequently, the skills and tactics we deploy on social channels and in crisis communications need an upgrade.

First: Make sure your social media channels are well protected so there is no chance of hackers taking control of your data and your message.

Second: Closely watch the social conversation – not just the easily accessible ones, but also places where negative conversations spin up.

Third: Have a strong rapid response strategy in place and establish a voice in social channels where disinformation is spread.

And finally: Give employees permission to act on your behalf. They can be fantastic assets.

Remember when companies were seen as vehicles to drive commerce? Today, the gauge of success is doing good, and demonstrating how your company or brand impacts your community and the world.

Do good work

We’ve shifted our culture to an outward mission – our employees leverage our unique platform and our position in the world to improve the lives of others. Look closely at your company mission and culture because it should influence your brand and how you communicate. Do good work. Take care of customers. Tell employees what you are doing. Create solutions that make society a better place.

Say what you stand for

It can be easy to talk about what you oppose. Instead, focus on the story of what you stand for. In 2017 there were a number of executive orders related to immigration, which would have a big impact on the tech industry. Microsoft focused first on articulating our position – a clear, fair, and enlightened immigration system that increases American competitiveness. Through that perspective, it was clear what we would do – and what we would say to our employees and the public.

Pick the right fight

It’s important to pick issues that matter to your company, partners, and customers. Global companies have no shortage of opportunities to take a stand. Look at your mission and your purpose as a guide in choosing when to use your platform as a company.

And while Humpty Dumpty was clever at explaining words and he felt secure in his position on the wall – the truth of our modern world is that communications continue to evolve rapidly. Planning, preparation, and speed are vital in today’s modern communications world.

 

Frank Shaw is corporate VP of communications at Microsoft.

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