OOPS! Gordon Brown’s recent debacle leads public relators to think this one out, with some care….

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Gordon Brown’s most recent pr debacle, caused by a microphone which had not been turned off , and that could easily contribute to Labour’s loss of a relative majority in the coming UK elections… besides other considerations which are pervasively occupying the blogosphere… makes me think of an apparently side issue:

the death, for all practical purposes, of privacy for each individual who lives in today’s intense 24/7 interconnected environment, no matter what trade, profession or role s/he has in society and what this means from a public relations point of view.

To put it bluntly: today, the only things we can be sure about not becoming public are our own inner thoughts (and even that is a debatable assumption…).

Leaving aside our consolidated attitudes towards the right to privacy as an absolute, fundamental and universal right (come on, let’s wake up…this is hogwash.. and a good dose of lip service..), we need to realise that, to gain trust as an individual/organization, one must pass what I call ‘mother’s test’…i.e. how would my mother take it if what I say is published tomorrow morning on the front page of the New York Times?

This has always been an accepted rule of thumb for any public statement long before the Internet even appeared on the horizon, and one of the founding rules of our profession for more than 100 years.

This now extends as well to what one says in private and is also beginning to surface for what one thinks.

If a subject to be trusted is ‘one who does what he says….walk the talk and, when useful, talk the walk…’ then we must discipline ourselves to think, speak privately and publicly as if our thoughts and words were to appear on the front page of the New York Times.

Sure, this will create many consequences, some good and some bad as every new societal development, and we should explore them with some serious thinking.

In any case this relatively new and recent trend surely impacts our profession in terms of body of knowledge, competencies and skills for what I presume we still consider the essential role of professional communication practice in today’s and tomorrow’s society.

Opinions, extensions, criticisms?

5 COMMENTS

  1. Toni, I don’t agree that we should internalize everything that’s controversial or possibly so by training ourselves to behave as if were were being stage-managed by spin-doctors (at least that’s what you seem to suggest). I’m not sure that would create trust, encourage authenticity or advance debate. Anyway, here’s two from me that offer another perspective on Mr. Brown and privacy in the digital age:

    http://paulseaman.eu/2010/04/time-to-reappraise-facebook/

    http://paulseaman.eu/2010/04/thisbrown-crisis/

  2. Paul, I apologise for the misunderstanding.

    What I am trying to express is exactly the opposite of what you imply…. we should be authentic when we thinkm when we speak privately or publicly.

    This is quintessential trustworthy behaviour and the glass half full of the trend I mentioned.
    Of course there is also the glass half empty part….

    Certainly spin doctoring, as you say (always remember old friend Tim Bell say: ‘I don’t really mind when they call me spin doctor…at least they say I am a doctor…), would cease to exist…

  3. As I’ve said before, if you are in public life long enough, eventually you will say or do something that stays with you forever. Whether it’s Gerald Ford saying he was glad to be back in America after a visit to Hawaii or Lloyd Blankfein telling a reporter that Goldman Sachs was “doing God’s work,” SOMETHING is going to haunt you for the rest of your days.
    Gordon Brown called her “a bigoted woman,” and she sounded like one. There are probably millions more like her in Britain,and Brown will likely lose the bigot vote. God forbid a politician running for office should have an unscripted opinion, but that was Mr. Brown’s opinion and he expressed it in an unguarded moment.
    His only salvation may be that the other two candidates are so weak. But, as we’ve seen in America, when voters want change, it will usually happen.

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