Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The myths we live by

I like what author Douglass Rushkoff is saying in this Q & A with Fast Company, and what's not to like if you are a PR guy?

What will marketing organizations look like in the future?

It will be companies that figure out how to communicate the non-fiction story of a company, so it’s going to look a lot more like a communications company than a creative branding agency. It’s going to look a little bit more like PR, in some sense. It’s going to be people who go and figure out what does your company do and how do we let the world know about that? There’s going to be a lot of psychology involved, except instead of it being psychologists turned against the consumer, it’s going to be psychologists going in and trying to convince companies that what they’re doing is worthy. It’s breaking down this false need in companies to hide from the public what they’re doing--except for the ones that do (need to hide).

What Rushkoff says dovetails nicely with what I and others have written about brand journalism (a.k.a. currated content) in which an organization tell its story without salesmanship and provides value to its audience in ways that do not merely serve its own needs. I like the hard question that Rushkoff asks of companies: “Well, are you proud of what’s going on inside your company? Are you proud enough to pull up the shades and let people see inside?”

I do take issue with Rushkoff's use of the word "mythology." Myths are not merely stories that are untrue. They are allegories, stories that may not be true at face value but which convey a deeper meaning, a deeper truth. Often myths convey our values -- as cultures, as nations, as organizations. As organizations we need to mine our myths for the values that lie beneath. These are the values upon which we build relationships, and they should endure, even if, in the age of transparency, the myths do not.

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