Posts Tagged ‘Global change’


(from https://www.reclaimingagency.com/meet-us)

Jonathan Wise is an adman calling his industry to account for its contribution to climate collapse.

In his late 30s, at the height of a career as a senior planning strategist, Jonathan’s MA course in Sustainability made him think again about the assumptions of endless growth and resource depletion that underpin advertising success.

“I felt I’d been stupid – not the smartest guy in the room, after all. I’d been duped and my identity was challenged,” Jonathan said when I interviewed him last week for my forthcoming book. The experience triggered deep self-questioning about what it means to be a good person, and a good man in particular.

Retreats in nature and time with a Maori community led him to leave his job and create the Comms Lab and Reclaiming Agency, which offers space for advertising people at all levels to reflect on practice and consider whether there are better ways of doing business.

At a recent Radical Resilience webinar organised by St Ethelburga’s Centre for Reconciliation and Peace, Wise gave the example of car ads which now feature groups of people sharing cars, a move away from the man and his machine trope. Still selling cars, though.

More radical is the manifesto at the heart of the Change the Brief demands which emerged from a day Wise and others organised last July where ad execs gathered to reflect on the industry’s role in the climate emergency and consider what steps they might take to challenge ‘business as usual’. It is an impressive set of principles (including don’t do work that increases carbon footprint), and the details of the process which gave rise to them are worth reading in full (here: ad industry acts

My question is: what is PR doing that begins to match this?

The CIPR has set up a committee that has been stalled by the virus; the PRCA has linked up with the Advertising Association to develop joint campaigns (thanks Rachel Picken for info) (PRCA).

How can PR leadership ensure that actions on climate change are more than skin deep, go further than adding ‘sustainable’ to slogans and brand images? Catherine Arrow‘s piece sets out some of the challenges, now and in the likely future.

Like advertisers, PR people have the skills, creativity and intellect to change the story. B Corporations might be one route. I suspect deep adaptation is required, as suggested at the Radical Resilience event. I hope the work I’m doing on deep communication principles will help. I doubt it will be in time.

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Opinion | The Racial Time Bomb in the Covid-19 Crisis - The New ...


In this Great Pause, as some have called it, many people are cleaning house, literally and metaphorically. As actual housekeeping makes no discernible difference, I turn instead to my erstwhile profession.

I’ve been working on a book for Routledge called Public Relations and Depth Communication: Behind the Mask for ages (Book blurb ) about new directions for public  relations and allied communication sectors, but dragging my feet. Partly, I think, because I had given up on the possibility of change. Unable to imagine what might halt the relentless tide of promotion, or enact a shift back from the outer attention-seekers to the inner conversations needed for individual and collective sanity.

Until now. It is terrible that we humans seem unable to contemplate risks repeatedly spelled out to us until the fire, famine or, as now, pestilence, is at the door. But as writer Paul Kingsnorth makes clear it would be even more terrible not to use this moment to re-evaluate priorities.

There is a particular urgency for those in the communication business. For example, in political communication, it is apparent that churning out of platitudes and bromides is simply unacceptable. Daily briefings from UK and US ‘leaders’ have exposed their emptiness and inability to respond to the moment.

I suggest that this is because they are trapped in the habit so well documented by Jim Macnamara (2015 book) of talking about listening …. and talking … and talking.

Most of us will have been bombarded with communications from CEOs of every organisation we connect with expressing their concern ‘at this difficult time’ but still ending up in self-promotion. It is a hard habit to break.

Others in this field, however, are seizing the space to reflect and connect, aiming to find a new way forward.

In public relations, respected industry leader Stephen Waddington is leading the charge with a blog on  scenario-planning (lockdown) and new forum (community of practice ) for discussing change. The forum already contains several clear-sighted proposals for organisations on managing their way through Covid-19.

But what if we look beyond ‘managing’ to the revolutionary potential of re-thinking the whole caboodle?

What would PR look like if it (we) worked from values or made planetary well-being  the main driver, not another T-shirt slogan? Covid gives us insight into the global catastrophe that is still hurtling down the track. We can see how exploitation of nature and other humans, social injustice, structural inequalities and simple greed have combined to create a perfect vehicle for the virus.

Practitioners in advertising and marketing communications have started asking these questions, and are finding some interesting answers. In particular, I recommend checking out reports of the  climate change summit organised by the sector last year  and how advertising practice is evolving around these insights (change the brief).

These responses start with the acknowledgement that advertising has contributed to global harm before asking what kind of good it might offer, as illustrated in the radical work of the Reclaiming Agency .

This is way beyond managing. It challenges clients. It takes risks. Is it the/a way forward for PR?  Who’s up for change?

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