Is there any excuse for a deferral, hidden behind the familiar “no comment”? For the first time in my career, I find myself pondering this Churchillian aphorism. “No comment” is a splendid expression which I am using again and again.
My old cohorts launched a new offering via PR Week last week, which naturally pasted me onto the front page. Lordy, what a headline. Last week I had nothing to say; I guess when I do, I will. Some wag on Twitter correctly observed that I’m quick to offer opinion as a rent-a-quote on public affairs yet remain tight-lipped on my own. The media landscape can be a funny old vista, if viewed from the outside rather than from within. It’s fascinating to listen to opinion about an idea I’ve provoked; sometimes it’s funny, sometimes cruel, sometimes wide of the mark – but always absorbing.
Front page headlines usually stimulate hype, and hype picks up speed, bumping into half truths on the journey to oblivion. The headline, I’d imagine, was hard for folk to get their heads around; some even thought it outlandish. One word, “disillusioned”, was a powerful meme, I guess. Somehow it thrust the story into the Twitter-sphere, pressing down hard on the opinion accelerator pedal without an effective brake. Dear reader, that’s the power of a headline; it delivers an inescapable implication, fragments news, filters out and frames an as yet unformed narrative.
Over the past two decades, from the advent of the email offering instant sharing, to social media giving the revolution real scale and true people power, the PR business has changed completely. Consumers are co-opting brand conversations and mashing and redistributing the ad men’s and PR peeps’ messages far and wide. This provoked a reflection on my personal future.
I am a curious, inquisitive and impatient soul who has an insatiable appetite for knowledge about the space I work in. Luckily I’ve had the foresight, experience and passion to stay ahead. My position has been commercially challenged in the last 2 years. I’ve found the consumer space difficult to work out. The truth is that so many people have felt the same challenges as well. Perhaps my boredom and a non-conformist personality would always find it difficult to overcome the frustrations.
This impatience and impulsiveness led me to try and consider building a media agnostic venture, integrated and yet different and centred on my experience and counsel. But I found it impossible to sell difference either to potential clients and even to my own colleagues. All who worked with my infectious enthusiasm to embrace the uncertainty of the future felt it was quite a thing to ratchet a set of gears. It’s easier, commercially, to plough a furrow than to change farming practice. There is nothing wrong with ploughing a field, but it’s not for me.
So, expecting change to happen around me or to sit back and wait for folk to catch up was rather stupid. Radical stuff is a bit scary, especially if you don’t know if it will work. For the record, I don’t, but the smaller model is easier to steer than a Moxy MT51 articulated dump truck. I guess I just don’t feel comfortable with a corporate structure. I’ve always believed that the renown people achieve through helping each other and collaborating more is the most important kind.
There is a potency that’s achieved by snatching all you can when you can, but I prefer constructing something of real substance and seeing what happens, alongside people who want to share an interesting, and at times unconventional, journey. This stickiness attracts people of tremendous vision as well as building a space for an interesting work ethic.
So, the future? Ay there’s the rub… How to shape an idea for the future, corporately, is going to be my personal challenge. When I have sealed the deals I’m working on now, and got the like-minded thinkers on board, then I’ll be ready to provide sound bites and lashings of commentary.