“Why do they hate us?”

Enjoyed an interesting blog-based discussion with an industry colleague this week – he fears the current recession may be accelerating consumer intolerance, causing a rise in business-bashing and an undue media focus on relatively trivial stories. He points to coverage in our major newspapers about a mouldy burger bun sold at a fast-food outlet.

He hopes it’s a temporary thing, and that the ‘good old Kiwi’ character-trait of giving individuals and businesses a “fair go” will rise to the fore again soon.

What do you think?  Personally, I’m far from convinced. My view is that we’re living in the age of instant gratification and growing distrust of business and authority. I feel that the combination of these factors (rather than the recession) is what’s driving dissatisfaction, intolerance and more demanding [impatient? unforgiving?] customer behaviour.

Combine this with the trend towards ‘citizen journalism’ and the instant, global and potentially devastating impact of social media and other Web-based communication, and we have the makings of a long-term trend that will likely be impacting on us for far longer than the current economic blues. 

If there’s a growing distrust of business and authority perhaps the real issue we should be discussing is: why, exactly?

 If, like me, you feel there’s a growing distrust of business and authority, perhaps the real issue we should be discussing is: why, exactly? Too much ‘spin’? Too much ‘presentation’? Too much listening to lawyers? Too much corporate nonsense-speak? Too little real and meaningful (for this, read ‘two-way’) engagement between organisations and the people important to them?

As for why our media deem it appropriate to devote space to trivial stories: again, little to do with the recession, I’m afraid. What we’re seeing here in lil’ ol’ Outer Roa is nothing more than a continuation of another global trend, this time caused by the unprecedented proliferation of information sources. Sadly, serious-issue journalism (or at least detailed analysis and interpretation of the issues) is increasingly becoming the preserve of specialist outlets, driving mainstream media (print and broadcast) down the populist route.

The ‘Grand Old Lady of Fleet Street’ herself, The Times, illustrates this perfectly. In terms of content (although not editorial style) she now more closely resembles The Sun or The Daily Mail than the august and venerable institution of even 20 years ago. I recall being briefed by the BBC’s business editor way back in 2000 on how his team were intending to start presenting hard news in a more ‘populist’ way. The challenge to communication professionals then, as now, was how to deal with the reality of this change.

All of this, of course, makes effective and insightful communication a ‘must have’ rather than a ‘nice to have’ for any right-thinking organisation. And we as comms practitioners need to be right across these developments – not surprised by them. They should be informing and shaping the integrated comms programmes we should be developing and managing for our employers and clients.

No man, woman or child is an island. When it comes to the much-vaunted “fair go” I fear these trends, combined with globalisation, immigration and social homogenisation, have diluted its import to a large extent. And while we must certainly bear it in mind in all that we do, and appeal to it where necessary, we should not let it romance us unduly or make us blind to the reality of change.

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