As the pressures of a looming global downturn, reckless deregulation and business culture of chasing short term growth at the cost of long-term stability converge, it’s no wonder that we see so many corporate crises in the news.
VW, Whirlpool, Boeing, Grenfell a few names from a long list of companies using endless denials and obstruction to buy time trying to recover from disasters. The real story is the price of failure paid by the poorest members of our society.
But their CEOs still reading from the same playbook as their ancestors from the last century. They get barracked by highly paid hard spinners who teach them not to say anything beyond the bare legal minimum, who work hand in hand with hyper-defensive lawyers who suck the heart and soul out of the messaging and leave nothing but a frictionless, forgettable, bland line of nothing.
As the speed of change accelerates far beyond historical comparison, we seem to wake up in a new world every morning. News, communications, healthcare, warfare, theatre, politics, sport and finding love have all changed beyond recognition since Henry Ford had to cope with scandals – so why hasn’t the set of rules that CEOs been updated to suit that?
Brands everywhere bang endlessly on about their obsession with ‘purpose’. Believing and achieving, visualising and capitalising. Like empty ‘inspirational quotes’ found in an Instagram hashtag, they have a kind of anti-meaning. They provoke distrust rather than faith. You think ‘if this is what they endlessly say, God knows what they are covering for.’
The credo of yesterday was ‘purpose’, today it’s ‘authenticity’, but tomorrow it will be ‘integrity.’
Disgraced CEOs and brands need to adapt to our changing times. They need to stand up, own up, do the hard work and lead by example.