“Post-modernism is modernism after the blow stopped hurting” (Once overheard in a chatroom)
The oracle of post-modernism Friedrich Nietzsche at the turn of the previous century, around 1880, philosophised that an emerging nihilism is creeping into culture and in specific into western society. This in turn gave rise to hard-core perspectivism for over the last 100 years – inevitably partial to interpretation in the very same way content is effectively judged and analysed with an air of scepticism across all media platforms. Where does this information come from? Is this information credible? Those are questions, with absolute validity, that comes off post-modernism.
So if PR, as we know it today, is the professional maintenance of image then post-modern PR is finally a departure from behaving, or as the industry likes to call it “strategising”, in a specific and expected way. But of course with an essential tone of critique or let’s call it dubiety. Post-modern PR will then deliberately mix styles, the media and certainly ideas, whilst evaluating and appraising them. And bang-up ideas at that. A bottle of the finest wine is assessed and blended right? So with that in hand…could there be a better way to build your brand or maintain its image?
The essence of brand building according to Al & Laura Ries (The fall of advertising & the rise of PR, 2002), 10 years ago, was to provide content for the media to build the brand. So based on what we know from Nietzsche and Ries we can infer that now more than ever in a sense of evolution reasonable and feasible content amplified in fusion is where the value lies. This value we speak of relate to the client’s needs, the brand’s desires and the compatibility of the two.
The post-modern situation is for the human mind, by its very nature, complex and ambiguous and stands fierce in its essence that subjectivity is determined by a profusion of considerations. In this argument therefore the quest for knowledge is self-revising – one simply has no other option but to try out and try out again to learn from mistakes. And so with an uncomfortable strain a post-modern absolute of critical consciousness surfaces whereby the gun is bent back onto post-modernism. Visionary speculation is under attack.
Post-modernism suggests that impressive theories are not to hold credence but that trial and more trial and a return to multifarious elements are more likely to be honest and eventually, successful; however in the obsession with credibility within PR strategy in 2012 this could seem daunting if not vacillating.
But that’s exactly where post-modern PR as a concoction of strategy, creativity and common sense (in the past these were often lightly smeared) and as the torchbearer presents itself with credibility. Credibility is a standard of carrying trust so how better to build trust than to cover all the bases with enormous consideration. Suggesting that post-modern PR integrates value-adding elements but does not take itself too seriously. Thus giving way for more authentic work and content that is less artificial, inherently uncontrived, truly wholesome and promotes ingenuity in making space for public relations, or communication, as it should be. The pitfalls of wasting campaign budgets, in-house energy and the media’s time can be avoided by simply allowing communication (and related content) to spontaneously emerge, flow from a place of creativity and then be evaluated thoroughly by an intended objective communication professional.
In the 21st century this translates into integrity, trustworthiness and dependability. A far more plausible orbit for PR, than perhaps some of the forced strategy and content of the past that communication professionals so easily let slip into the ether.
Have we become too casual?
If the obvious zeitgeist of our times is the desperate need for connection and endless sharing, albeit on Facebook and Twitter, then the genteel zeitgeist of our times is casualisation – specifically the uber-casualisation of our lives. Whether we apply this supposition to personal or business affairs the examples are in profusion.
Casualisation is a double-edged sword. On the one hand “the times” call for less stately and ornate communication, and behaviour, but on the other hand it has watered down not only the way we communicate but also what we communicate.
Casualisation has particularly skulked into the last decade partially via a digital mutiny but also due to a physical and emotional demand for, as the zeitgeist says, connecting. Houses are designed with fewer interior walls allowing for collaborative informal entertaining. The kitchen cum living area is asserting its title as “the bosom of the home”. Highly specific informal micro-communities, like the Jewish Princesses Against Pepsi Addiction In Long Island (the JPAPALI), are meeting with great fortitude (with an unofficial playground online of course). The tie has been replaced by the flip-flop as we arouse our connection to leisure. Meetings, across industries, rarely require more than a coffee shop – forget the golf course. Our cherished in-house newsreader and CNN reporter are chattier than ever. And Ellen and The Talk take the reigns of supposed serious yatter. Boundless hours of free calls on Skype and Viber have replaced the quick holiday phone call to the distance family. The cloakroom has disappeared over night as if its formality and ability to unconsciously create a sense of place is no longer necessary; or maybe coats are just not very popular this season.
But for now forget the template and consider the times related to communication: the digital era has rammed towards 3.0, citizens are vehemently taking back power across the world by occupying space (formerly-known-as-public-space) and wars based on misconstruction still dig deeper into the sand. And so it is flooding the very essence of pan-communication. We revel in a space of partially engaged relations whereby the necessary weightiness of communication is diluted leaving us a rather apterous specie. Suggesting that not everyone has drunk the Redbull for its proverbial wings.
One word answers in an email, silly mindless Facebook sharing, hands off tech encouraging a WIFI approach to dialogue and complete disregard to etiquette of “do and don’t” when it comes to social media. These are just some of the communication muddle we face if we’re remotely connected to the big bad web. Perhaps this muddle is more of a dilemma as we are confronted by a choice between undesirable alternatives. We can either ignore the revolution of a new age of communication or seemingly join this revolt and lose some clout in way of communicating.
Saying all this a dilemma can be an encumbrance and its tonnage can surely be felt. Malcolm Gladwell in The New Yorker of October 2011 argues that light connections (and he means on various social media platforms) are too casual and not nearly substantial enough to form true communication. But perhaps a new course can be encouraged after all – a decent median in the middle age of digital. Abandoning the tendency to interact as a teenager and the liability of not connecting at all like an oldster. So the answers lie in finding this middle way of social media, of casualisation, of digital emergence and in communication to promote a “heavy” connection instead.
For communication professionals the task at hand is irrefutable. As the master of communication, PR can regard the need to casual down and the inverted need to promote meaningfulness. Public relations can instil an ordinance. These might include: returning to proper diction in an email (not just a quick spell-check); picking up the phone instead of endless to and fro BBM messages; creating content that’s thought-driven, well written, researched, relevant and not copied and pasted from a website; building closer relationships by having a methodical “listening” session; promoting less vacuous culture (pseudo Kardasian-like celebrity et cetera); redefining meritocracy with authentic influencers; originating dialogue from the bottom up (not the top down).
All in all it’s simple – communicate better. Just do it. Just communicate better, not more formalised, just better. Incorporate the digital world as a helpful tool for convenience but apply the same principles of overall effective communication to all channels. Forget casual, and formal. Find a new voice that drives communication, and by implication content, somewhere in between that represents excellence.