Friday, April 27, 2007

Being Authentic

One of the things often observed about Durham, even by news media in nearby communities is that this community has a soul. It is also called real and authentic. There is a cool article by Bill Breen in the May issue of Fast Company magazine about authenticity from a brand standpoint. Below are some things I gleaned. They helped me understand and put into words why Durham is authentic.

What does it take to be authentic?

A sense of place
Authenticity comes from a place we can connect with.

A strong point of view
Authenticity also emerges from people with a deep passion for what they are doing.

Serving a larger purpose
Consumers believe every brand has an ulterior motive. Authenticity is when a brand is convincing that the motive is a byproduct of a larger purpose.

Authenticity comes to a brand that is what it says it is… its actions align with the story it tells through communications.

How do you stay authentic even as you get big?

Ubiquity may not be toxic to authenticity, but it certainly dilutes it.

Can you be authentic when you’re trying to be authentic?

Warmth can wear out its welcome and feel contrived if it isn’t real.

A brand doesn’t feel real when it overtly tries to make itself real.

Can you be cool and still be authentic?

To maintain its integrity a brand must remain true to its values. And yet to be cool, a brand must be as dynamic as change itself. To be authentic, these must be reconciled.

What’s real are the experiences and connections brands allow us to make.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Bull Puckey

Geez, I have a hard time getting into the daily routine of a blog. The pace things move and change in my work and life is unbelievable, at least to me.

I love this work. For more than 30 years, it has been so much fun, and it’s as much today as it was at the beginning. One thing isn’t fun. That’s explaining things over and over to the same people. I used to take full responsibility, since communication doesn’t take place until its two-way, right? Wrong. Many people don’t read or listen. Instead, they are either crisis/adrenaline junkies… or they expect people to spoon feed them (a weird type of “just in time” delivery). Or, they have an agenda and, rather than communicate directly, they just keep asking the same questions until they get their way.

I say a new “rule of communication” be established, and that’s to call “bull-puckey” (not exactly the way we said it in Idaho) and save all the time these people cost…. Maybe if we insisted they do their job, they wouldn’t have time to play with people’s heads.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Feeling Numb

I’m feeling more numb than relieved this morning about the Lacrosse party story. I’m relieved for the young men and their families.

But having been near the epicenter when the story erupted, my mind still keeps going back over what could have prevented this.
  • It turns out both Duke and the police were accurate in downplaying the allegations when first made.
  • The paper in Raleigh took credit for “breaking” the story, but they weren’t taking credit yesterday when charges were dropped.
  • Actually there is dispute about how the story exploded. A member of one of the listservs picked it up on the DPD log and, because there had been friction between neighborhoods and student parties, it was a natural topic on the listserv.
  • The Raleigh N&O by some accounts actually picked it up from the listserv and made it a story about race. As WUNC reported this morning during NPR, the story fed the media’s appetite for salacious stories about race and crime etc. Maybe that media appetite should be a candidate for some serious dieting.
  • People pled… I was one… during the initial listserv discussions for calm and a presumption of innocence.
  • But part of Durham’s personality is activist… and the story set off people with issues about Duke, people with partisan UNC issues, people angry about domestic violence, people who have issues about race, poverty etc.
I guess my concern in hindsight is the news media wasn’t there to balance perspective and provide an anchor with the facts. Instead it fell hook, line and sinker and became a huge part of the problem.

I don’t understand the rush now to judge Durham as a community. More than half of the community didn’t vote for the district attorney. And even if they had, it’s a double standard to blame a community for the actions of individuals or groups. Are Raleigh and Charlotte being blamed, one for electing Jim Black, an admitted felon, the other the place where the bribes were exchanged? No.

In fact, we should all step back from blame for a moment and take a good hard look at whether justice is being served by the rush to judgment and impatience with process so common now. If you think lessons were learned during Lacrosse, just watch coverage of the Imus story right now… actually, it isn’t coverage as much as news media and listservs eager to drive a story.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Press Interviewing the Press

Can’t the press find subject or content experts or observers to interview as sources? Increasingly I see reporters quoting other reporters on stories, and they are largely regurgitating headlines, conjecture, story lines in the form of facts.

I guess it has to do with lower budgets and too many news media organizations chasing too little news. I think good reporters and editors probably do become very intimate with details, but I’d feel better if the media continued to report the news as neutral observers rather than generate news.

But maybe it’s too late for journalism as it existed or seemed to exist only a few years ago. Day after day now, I see reporters forcing stories that don’t exist, pitting individuals or groups against one another, amplifying everything as sensational or fearful. Once in a while, they are on target. Many times, as with the recent “lead” scare… it is costing communities, groups and individuals thousands of dollars in lost productivity and extra and duplicate steps.

When the news media are at their best, it makes us all better. In today’s world… and a lot of journalists agree with me, the media are part of the problem.