Because it's important.
Because it's important.
We introduced our CEO Communication Summit back in December—a simpler time. Through original research, expert commentary and candid conversation, we were going to seek fresh answers to an old question: Should CEOs use their power and platform to do more than market their company and protect their industry? And if so, how should they go about it?
Many CEOs are in trouble every day, and it’s a kind of trouble that won’t go away. On the U.S. Muslim travel ban and myriad other questions arising daily from declarations and policy changes from the Trump admnistration, CEOs are damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Employees, suppliers, distributors, customers and investors have conflicting demands, offered in the strongest terms.
“Boycott Culture Forces CEOs to Walk Tightrope in Trump Era,” says the Bloomberg News story, which quotes Weber Shandwick’s Micho Spring, summing up the situation: “Consumers are holding brands accountable as though they were political candidates, and they’re voting again and again.”
And if CEOs wake up every morning on the horns of a new dilemma, so do the communication execs who support them. I personally spoke with a Trump-loathing executive communication director who was nevertheless frustrated with her CEO for saying something mildly sympathetic to employees freaked out by the travel ban. Why? Because the comment caused untold trouble and immediate revenue loss for the organization, some of whose business partners didn't appreciate it.
In this climate, CEOs and leadership communication professionals have two choices:
Under the opposing pressures of political turmoil, they can turn slowly to stone.
Or, they can realize that everything has changed, from one circumstance to another. CEOs are now denied the artificial corporate possibility of pleasing most of the people most of the time by saying very little, as blandly as possible. They have been delivered to the more common human requirement of stating their position as carefully and strategically and clearly as they can, knowing they will offend some and please others, and letting the wood chips fall where they may.
You know, like leaders do. And writers. And moms and dads, for that matter.
All those kinds of people are gathering at the CEO Communication Summit in Montreal to build strategic positions, and make the means to describe them. Register now to get a seat before they run out.
My wife teaches s at a Chicago elementary school where the kids are predominantly Mexican and Puerto Rican. Teachers have been advised on what to do if ICE agents arrive looking for children. Teachers have also received guidance on what to do after school, if a parent who is supposed to pick a child up, does not.
In late January when the Public Relations Society of America issued its statement against "alternative facts" (and before IABC issued its own statement, and started an ethics petition that's now up to 1,002 signatures), I wrote to its National Chair Jane Dvorak:
I’ve covered PRSA and IABC on and off for 25 years, and I’ve never seen a stronger statement from either association than the one you signed on Tuesday. So let me add my voice to all the kudos you’re getting.
I have two questions, one with my blogger/journalist porkpie hat on and the other with my other fedora on, as the executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association:
Porkpie: All the Twitter feedback I can find is in support of your statement. Did you get any significant blowback from members supporting the Trump administration?
Fedora: As the head of the more PSA, it has occurred to me that until it becomes an issue of unethical speechmaking (which it may) … we’re going to keep our powder dry on making such statements. But we’d love a chance and a way to back YOUR statement, the way we’ve also backed pledges for civil discourse, etc.
If you’re collecting logos of other trade associations to get behind PRSA, you can use ours.
I’m sure you’re deluged with reaction to all this, so as the wise correspondent said, write when you can. Not when you can’t.
David Murray, Executive Director
Professional Speechwriters Association
Jane wrote back over this last weekend:
I’m not sure I ever responded to you fully. I’m just finally getting caught up after all of this.
In response to your question regarding support and blowback. Of course there were concerns raised by a few people. Differences of opinion exist on all things and this is no different. I have listened, I have responded and have taken the comments into consideration. Overwhelming, though, the response to the statement was positive from members and organizations such as yours. We received support from the UK, Canada, Mexico and in the US from SPJ/SDX, Arthur Page Society and you. Our statement was never intended to be political. It focused on ethical behavior and we will stick to the importance of that for all PR professionals and communicators.
To your second question, Mr. Fedora, is that PRSA will advocate on a topic when we know it can have an impact for our members and the profession. We were careful to discuss the ramifications of this decision before making our statement and a process is in development to ensure future situations are handled with equal care. We will limit our scope to PR and communication professionals, as this is where our strongest voice lies. We haven’t taken to aligning logos or other organizations externally with our statement. I did share this with our executive team, though. We appreciate your support and willingness to stand strong with us on this issue of ethical behavior.
There’s much ahead to elevate the work we do; this is just one example.
Laugh Often –
Jane Dvorak, APR, Fellow PRSA
2017 PRSA National Chair
And so, as PRSA leaders worked on a process by which to handle "future situations," the Communicator's March continued to grow.
On Wednesday nights Scout has an indoor soccer practice and I happily repair to a tavern around the corner for a quiet couple of pints and a burger. Last night, though, another soccer dad was there. A Trump voter, it emerged. A sneaky, city Trump voter. An ex-lawyer Trump voter with a lot of annoyingly well-educated anger over the shortcomings Obamacare. Anger well-argued, but so long-harbored that it had turned the man's breath putrid.
I came home, brushed my own teeth, deleted a post I'd written for today that I also judged to be rancid, and promoted the Friday Happy Hour Video to Thursday, because I'm going on a brief vacation tomorrow—from everything, I hope.
So without further fucking ado, here is the lovely 1966 film "Paddle to the Sea," The last time I saw it, I was sitting on a gym floor in the third grade school in Hudson, Ohio. A more innocent boy.
In correspondence the other day, I confessed to someone that due to the various professional roles I've played with great enthusiasm and little fear over the years—communication commentator, gonzo journalist, conference convener, association gladhander—I never know whether a person I'm introducing myself to on email:
All those are legitimate views of me, I'm sure. But the range makes it hard to figure out how to begin an email.
(Which reminds me of E.B. White, who said, "I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.")
[Which sounds like a nice problem to have in the morning. I wake up feeling like the boxer Archie Moore, who said, "I ride my fear like a fast horse."]
I try not to write about Trump. This is what happens.
I was in Washington last week.
I’m in Washington at least twice a year, once to hold the World Conference of the Professional Speechwriters Association (this year, Oct. 16-18; registration opens soon) and usually at least one other time for one reason or another.
I love Washington, for all the obvious reasons and also because I have lots of professional friends here—many more than I have in Chicago, for sure.
I love Georgetown University and The Tombs and Martin’s Tavern.
I love running along the Potomac and down the Mall, starting at the Capitol and finishing at the Lincoln Memorial. Running up those steps, I feel as free as I do on my motorcycle on a country road.
The only thing that I used to love but don’t love anymore is the White House. It was barricaded this time, and I was grateful, because I didn’t want him to see me.
And there’s one thing that I used to hate about D.C. that I also didn’t have to see this time: smug looks on Washington faces, people who know the score. After meetings and conversations with a dozen D.C. communication operators of various stripes last week, I can report to Trump loathers and lovers alike that though the president hasn’t “drained the swamp”—and never will, because the swamp goes all the way down—I can tell you that he has thoroughly stirred the swamp up, into a dangerous confused sea.
Not only do Washington insiders not have a firmer grasp than your slackjawed Midwestern self on what is happening here, they actually have less. A person who knows how the White House is supposed to work is more gobsmacked than you are about the manner in which it is (sort of) operating now. Because they know how things are supposed to operate and they can see more clearly, how out of whack the current reality is.
Which, emotionally, is actually kind of refreshing when you’re in Washington, because people don’t treat you like a rube.
But less so on the way home from your week with America's Best Guessers, when you realize that your dumb guess is every bit as good as theirs.
The International Association of Business Communicators may have been the last of the major communication associations to make a pointed public defense of its code of ethics in context of a U.S. presidential administration that's transforming spin into subterfuge.
But with its latest move—the establishment last week of a petition "to show your commitment to ethical communication at all levels"—IABC seems to have taken the lead.
I hope you'll do what I did: Click the video below and while it's playing in the background, open a new tab and join the 740 IABC members and nonmembers who have signed as of this post.
For your livelihood, if for nothing else. As petition signator Nathan Stone explained plainly, "These are the fundamentals of our trade, and without them, we have no merit."