Let me explain. Consider this story from my relatively short Boy Scout career. In that time, I went on many campouts. Without fail, there was always that kid who woke up before everyone else. Because he couldn’t sleep, he decided it was everyone else’s time to wake up.
He’d go from tent to tent, nudging us all until we had climbed out of our warm, comfortable sleeping bags, long before we needed to be, just to keep him company in the cold, damp morning air. What he didn’t realize was that he was a unifying force for the entire troop in a mutinous sort of way. His habit of waking us up too early sometimes led to discussions over the morning campfire on how exactly we were going to throw this kid into the lake with his clothes on.
That brings me to the current trend of some self-proclaimed communications visionaries telling the rest of us we need to wake up to the market forces that are changing our operating climate.
Here is how that usually goes.
The speaker delivers what is billed as a “wakeup call” to a communications industry group. Typically, the speech is characterized by “hard truths” the guru believes the industry has not yet demonstrated a willingness to embrace. Then he tells us his own story, full of examples where he achieved things early in his career that to the best of his knowledge no one has ever before achieved. He tells us how he challenged the status quo, turned conventional wisdom upside down and became this person who stands before us that we should all aspire to be.
Then he tells us the bad news. We’re focused on the wrong things. If he’s a digital pro, he’ll tell us we’re too focused on traditional media. If he’s trying to earn his stripes as a full service pro, he’ll tell us we’re too captivated with digital. If he just wants attention, he’ll tell us to stop doing something (anything) a certain way, that everything we’re doing is wrong and we need to be smarter about it.
Of course, he may drop in a few vulgarities to shock us and make sure we know he represents a new way of thinking. Often, he’ll remind us that geography no longer matters, and somewhere near the end of the speech, he’ll talk about what’s most important in life beyond business.
Here’s my advice. Rest up. Or more to the point, do not be alarmed by yet another professional Chicken Little trying to create an iconoclastic personal brand for himself.
The fact is the public relations industry changes and evolves every day. We aren’t doing things the way we did them five, ten or 20 years ago. That’s baked into the profession. The industry has changed without the need for wakeup calls, and it will continue to evolve. In other words, change and evolution is what we do.
So the next time some guru stands in front of you and tells you everything you’re doing is wrong and you need a wakeup call, just imagine we’re sitting around a campfire together, on a cool mountain morning, contemplating ways to throw this guy into the lake with his clothes on. I guarantee that you’ll feel much better.
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Also published on Medium.