This was the definitive moment – folks, when the changing face of the new communications showed its face. If you blinked at the precise moment you’d have missed it.
Closer to home in Southeast Asia, it had already played its covert hand in the Malaysian elections (in April). The incumbent government lost its overwhelming majority to record its lowest majority since independence. In the aftermath a variety of reasons were bandied about but in the main the lack of mastery of the internet, blogs and the new media were blamed for the poor showing.
The parallels with the US elections are quite simply clear for me. A fat, uninterested, poorly governed administration being brought to task by the power of people. Secret collective meetings, the exchanging of notes, thoughts and comments, banding together to vote, change and revolutionise the way things are being done.
What was interesting in all of these, was the way communications played a critical role in these historical events. In an age where communications is sophisticated and immediate, many of us still struggle to comprehend how these revolutions, historical events mobilised such numbers to change the face of accepted reality.
Word of mouth – people communicated, people talked. The word got around and lit campfire after campfire. Guy Fawkes or Bonfire night in the UK is a tribute to exactly that. The lighting of bonfires to send a message across the land for a noble and just cause.
The key is not in the how but in the what. The message or as we communicators say the content is the key. As a very learned woman keeps reminding me – a good message can still revolutionise coming from the mouth of a donkey (or delivered by a lemon of a spokesperson). The content has the power to energise, mobilise, and engender change.
Now back to the US. Here we had a historical moment with Barack Obama, ostensibly the first African American man to be elected president of the United States of America, the leader of the free world. Almost immediately a collective intake of breath from the millions rooting for this man around the world was heard.The weight of expectations is mind boggling.he needs to come in and clean up the US (and by implication the free world) financial markets, bring peace, stability and end the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, address hostile powers including North Korea, Iran, Russia and at the same time boost employment, reinvigorate the flagging US domestic production landscape, rescue the property market the list goes on. Phew. That’s just for starters.
Gosh – he’s got his work cut out for him. I wish him well and hope he succeeds in at least 50% of what he needs to do. I think that would already be a major achievement. In any case his message/content, of “We can change” resonated well with the masses within America as well as on the international stage. This message mesmerised, gave people hope, a vision of things that can be, helped spread the word around the campfires, the bonfires, the grapevines and channels all around the country. Internet, television, moble phones were the carriers of this content. The message was simple and was multi meaning – to be interpreted however the user wanted it. It meant a lot to a lot of people. This was almost the second coming of the messiah. This was not only internet or new media (Gen Y) revolution, but it disseminated a clear, simple and powerful message. The content was effective and immediate. It had relevance to the world.
George W Bush – or as he is fondly remembered “W”; now I wish him well. I hope he has the courage to recognise and accept the many failings of his tenure with some of the doubtless successes of his time in office. Good luck. You talked a good talk old man. But when you started by declaring Osama bin Laden “wanted dead or alive”, I think that was the start of the slippery slide downhill. He struggle with content. His messages never really resonated with the world. They were often not sophisticated and interesting. By golly he did try to walk the talk. “We will go to war if neccessary” he said, and they did!
Communicators all around the world – I urge you to not underestimate the power of the message. Be it a well crafted news release, a clever tag line, a compelling ad, a letter, a speech or a simple note, the art (and science) of communications is what differentiates mankind from other beings on this earth. Speak, articulate, communicate, interact, tell a good story with killer message or content and you will be king/queen. This is even more imperative with the advent of newer technologies, channels and media. Every little transgression is amplified, ridiculed and magnified. Content was king yesterday, is king today and will be king in the future.