A week of catch-ups, steadily moving projects along, and some deep thinking about the moral maze of comms. Fair to say, this week has had it all.
1. Doing the right thing
This is a big theme of my work, the inspiration behind my business and the type of work I take on; and my basic approach to life. So no big deal really.
But it’s a theme that keeps very sharply being brought into focus through events in the world of marketing and, yes, politics.
Watching the political and cultural landscape this week, I’ve been struck a lot by the ideas of choices and priorities.
Case in point number one: (and, really sorry to have to bring this up again) the ongoing and never-ending omni-cluster-catastro-shambles that is the political process of the “United” Kingdom removing itself from the European Union.
I won’t go into details, but again, I’m struck by the priorities that politicians, pundits, and members of the Question Time audience seem to be jumping to.
At a time when (just to name two things) people’s livelihoods, and patients’ access to essential medicines are at stake, the talk is still about red lines, preconditions to discussions; and the priorities as ever seem to be about narrow political calculation on all sides.
One radio interview I heard earlier this week was really emblematic of what I see as the misaligned priorities of people in this debate. It was with a particular MP who said they’d been persuaded to vote for Theresa May’s proposed Withdrawal Agreement in spite of the many drawbacks they saw in, it as “….at least on 29th March, I get my Brexit.”
Again, a choice of politics, personal ambition, and ideology over lives. And given the current political impasse going on, this seems to be a depressingly familiar theme; and whatever way you voted, I feel like these are the wrong priorities.
And, so on to case in point number two. And you’ll be relieved to hear that this is from the more relevant world of marketing and advertising.
The viral sensation that everyone’s talking about this week is that Gillette ad.
In spite of it being a bit too long and the direction being a bit cheesy, I think it’s a welcome addition to the debate about toxic masculinity. In my view it’s a good example of a big brand using its dominant market position, to positively influence a highly engaged audience that trusts them.
I really enjoy Mark Ritson’s Marketing Week pieces and he also has a take on this one. But I disagree with his view here.
Again, for me it’s about priorities. He says here that:
“There is a special place in marketing hell for companies that not only waste their marketing budgets but actually invest that money into things that ultimately make their situation much worse. “
By “worse”, he means impacting on their market share and profitability by losing the sales of potential buyers; and points to angry YouTube comments for the evidence. Notwithstanding my rule of thumb that states that YouTube comments offer a less-than-reliable window into the soul of the world at large; again this for me is about priorities.
The Gillette ad, for all its hokieness, is an attempt for a brand to stand for something different, more positive, and to use its platform to contribute to a much needed societal conversation. They’ve identified that there is something bigger than their product, and even their market dominance.
Yes, they’ve been clumsy along the way. For example, the paltry $1m donation to charitable causes (from global profits of $6billion) opens up a valid criticism of window dressing. But I don’t think both criticisms hold at the same time. It can’t be both doing too much and not enough simultaneously.
It is about priorities. And in doing the right thing, there are sometimes missteps and sometimes things to learn. But for me this is about the start of an important conversation out of the political sphere, and I think Gillette deserve credit for getting involved.
And I think there’s a lesson there for all of us comms people. We talk to our organisations about “priorities” in terms of “what needs doing first” and “where does the budget need to go"; and that’s an important conversation to have.
But we need to start talking to our leaders and organisations about priorities in terms of “what choices do we make?”, “what do we see as being ‘the right thing’?” and, critically “what risks are we prepared to face to do the right thing?”
This is what stands at the heart of our organisational stories, identities and messaging
Do the right thing. It can be hard. But it’s necessary.
2. Time to catch up
I enjoyed not one but two afternoons in Chester this week to meet and catch up with some old friends and colleagues.
This is a bit of my line of work that I love. It’s all about relationships and while, yes, sometimes these can lead to work and money; the more important part is about mutual support, encouragement and sharing problems
As a freelancer, you’re far more likely to collaborate with others than compete with them, and this week has been a great reminder of that
If we had coffee (or fruit tea) this week, thank you.
3. Fantastic clients
This week, I’ve been doing a lot of work on a social media campaign for an NHS client very close to my heart; which I’m so delighted has been picked up on a national level as an example of best practice.
I’ll share more when appropriate. But this is what can happen when you have a client that makes brave creative decisions and focuses on an outcome. It’s been fantastic to be working with them (in a project team with three of my closest freelancer friends) on bringing their idea to life, and seeing the benefit to their organisation.
4. Gearing up
The next couple of weeks are going to be pretty full on.
Next week I start the bulk of a big public engagement campaign for another NHS project in Cheshire, with another project getting moving in greater pace too.
Loads to do, lots of people to meet, and lots of opportunities to make a big difference.
It’s what it’s all about - and why I’m privileged to do what I do.