The choice of standing in the spotlight of success or the cold shadows

Despite living in an age of unlimited possibilities that are only limited by imagination, cleverness and savvy – enhanced by the enormous power of today’s digital revolution – have you ever stopped to consider all the sameness, blandness and copycat styles that surround and bombard us each day?

cloud2During lectures, I am fond of saying that companies and organizations today have the freedom and potential to achieve unprecedented leadership and success … the choice between standing in the spotlight of awareness or the choice of being relegated to the shadows of blandness. And, given the choice, it’s astonishing how many outfits prefer the cold familiarity of the shadows.

Some organizations … in fact, too many …  still try to control and sanitize what they say to such extremes that little remains about the true character of their organization but self-serving drivel, devoid of appeal, relevance and purpose.

Here are some practical examples we see each and every day:

  • The formula for local, cable and network news programs has not changed much in as long as I can remember, about 40 years. People, technology and events change but the formula remains chiseled in granite, appealing to fewer and fewer people who are choosing to do more contemporary and appealing things, like get the news and information they need online. Those old, unchanging ways of mainstream news are way past their “sell-by” date. But, yet, most in broadcast news are not changing, not taking a chance.
  • Public radio and TV stations – the NPR and PBS affiliates around the country – are wringing their hands because donations have dropped precipitously, forcing cutbacks in staff and programs. But, when fundraising time swings around, PBS TV stations air the same tired, old (and free) self-help programs as if intentionally trying to drive off viewers. And, NPR radio stations are tone-deaf on how to reach changing audiences by doing the same old thing – interrupt quality, top-ranked NPR programs to drone on about our responsibility to give them money. They are so disconnected with viewers and listeners … it is as if they are living on a different planet. Maybe they are … or just laboring under a self-imposed insular attitude of being above having to confront the realities of the world.
  • Companies and organizations are scrambling today to hire junior staffers to handle online social media for the wrong reasons. Aside from the fact that many of the new recruits have no accomplishments in social media, they lack the clever and engaging skills to connect with audiences. They lack experience in communications. Quite the contrary, companies send out promotions and sales messages, never stopping to wonder why they only have 370 followers on Twitter. It reminds me of the hysteria in the 1980s when companies would hire people to stand over fax machines, waiting for a piece of paper to belch out.
  • Far too many companies and organizations still desperately rely on press releases under some illusion that it will lead to media coverage. In fact, news releases are the opposite of what today’s news media desires. Reporters and editors are under pressure to find fresh, new and original stories, not recycle some outfit’s dull self-promotion under the heading, “news release.” Lazy PR people, out of touch with media needs and lacking media contacts, use press release outfits like Vocus and Cision that generate their own kind of spam through mass email blasts of releases. It’s largely ignored by the media. On the other hand, those few people who learn how to create media coverage through a journalistic storytelling and make the effort to develop media contacts are the few who capture headlines.

Are we really moving forward competitively in America or just kidding ourselves that two steps backward is really one step forward?