Posted by Brian Connolly
The Arthur W. Page Society... images of the Skull and Bones come to mind. One imagines secret meetings where members hidden behind hoods invoke covenants and cast powerful spells on top of the relics of the Apostles themselves.
Nah. It’s just an association of PR execs. It does have some 340 members. And even with Rich Jerenstdt and Aedhmar Hynes among the its ranks, the organization is considered the crème-de-la-crème of the industry. Along with a few distinguished academics, membership is made up primarily of chief communications officers of Fortune 500 companies and the CEOs of the world's largest public relations agencies. Fact is, if there is ANY prestige left in the biz, that’d pretty much be it.
Well, the buzz is, they're about to release a white paper titled, "The Authentic Enterprise." We happen to get our hands on an advanced copy. Regrettably, it was a HUGE disappointment. What a mess. Excuse me but apparently poor Arty is the latest to catch the highly communicable Webfluenza.
Anyway, if you haven’t gotten your shot or haven't yet been otherwise inoculated, here are a few questions we recommend you load up on before you expose yourself, i.e. in the spirit of an ounce of prevention and all.
QUESTIONS FOR ROGER BOLTON, PRESIDENT, ARTHUR W. PAGE SOCIETY
1. Can you confirm that the motive of the paper was "to create exciting new career paths" (p. 10)?
2. Describe the difference between an “authentic” voice vs. an authoritative voice. Would you agree that it is essentially subjective vs. objective, community over content? Is that a good thing? Let alone for PR, for society?
3. How effective are free market forces (popularity systems) in vetting "authentic"? Was this a consideration in the study?
4. Is “trust” considered a general attribute or specific to a particular transaction?
5. Can there be such a thing as a managed "authentic" voice across a distributed network?
6. The paper suggests a highly coordinated approach across corporate disciplines. Did you consult the other disciplines? Can you put that in the context of WPP's recent announcement that they would form a separate exclusive entity to service Dell for the exact reason that integration and collaboration doesn’t necessarily work across an enterprise?
7. With regard to the radical reevaluation of corporate structure and identity, did you consult with anyone with expertise in organizational dynamics?
8. Can you describe more about the "dawn of the era of radical de-professionalization" (p. 7)? Is that a good thing? Are you suggesting we accommodate it? You also say that "Today, access to the tools and organizing power of social media is a free-for-all" (p. 12). Are you promoting that PR participate in, let alone lead, a free-for-all?
9. As you are aware, the seminal book about this socio-economic "movement" is the Cluetrain Manifesto. Did you account for the fact that most "true believers" are anti-corporation? Are you aware that one of the latest discussions at the Beekman Center at Harvard is whether the concept of public and private are now obsolete?
10. Do you think that by aligning with the tenets of a disintermediation movement, you are likely also disintermediating PR out of business?
11. David Weinberger, co-author of the Cluetrain Manifesto, has said, “Markets are conversations but conversations do not need marketing.” What is the role of PR in that ecosystem? Isn't PR's role today primarily marketing?
12. “Today, we’re growing a multi-faceted, networked ecosystem, and we’re seeking to ‘influence' its priorities and actions to benefit the enterprise (p. 24).” Does this new ecosystem even tolerate "influence"?
13. You say that the digital network revolution calls into question the basic assumption of the corporate model (p. 11). Can you project that out? What do you envision the future corporate model to be? Have you considered the legal and financial ramifications? Bottom line: how much will the disruption cost? On what do you base your confidence that we will be better off in the new system you propose?
14. With the Web moving toward the disintermediation of “authoritative” information, how does truth emerge? How does truth emerge in a populist system? Are we now just part of a herd?
15. “All of this makes the 21st century enterprise more vulnerable (p. 14).” Is that consistent with your proposal?
16. You suggest that dialogue is now required. Always? Is that even practically possible? Is it affordable? Is dialogue with the loudest members of an audience a true reflection of the marketplace?
17. “We are no longer in control (p. 23)” is certain the mantra of the PR 2.0 evangelists. First, is it a copout? Was Shakespeare in control of his message? Secondly, if PR is no longer the discipline for controlling (managing) the corporate voice, why would anyone pay us?
18. “Large opportunity also attracts large numbers of opportunists (p. 24).” How does the marketplace differential between us and them without authority?
19. You cite the Pew study that "57 million people in the U.S. read blogs.” If the info ecosystem is polluted with low quality, how does the system differentiate? Does the system lose the ‘language’ of quality over time?
20. Lastly, as your paper essentially attempts to change our profession's DNA, was all of the Society in agreement before the paper was released?
Arty, feel better.
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Reminds me of Werner Erhard's est.
[est is a hodgepodge of philosophical bits and pieces seemingly culled from the carcasses of existential philosophy, motivational psychology, Maxwell Maltz's Psycho-cybernetics, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, Freud, Abraham Maslow, L. Ron Hubbard, Hinduism, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, P. T. Barnum, and apparently anything else that Erhard's intuition told him would work in the burgeoning human potential market. What did Erhard promise those who would shell out hundreds or thousands of dollars for his programs? He promised he would "blow their minds"* and "empower" them "to produce effective action." He would enable them "to produce new ways of working." He would transform the basis of their communication. They would be able "to cause life instead of just living it." "Werner Erhard held out the tantalizing promise of transformation, a word and a concept never precisely defined in the fuzzy syntax-twisted jargon of est."]
I have now read “The Authentic Enterprise” report twice and your list of questions is downright charitable. Have you heard back from Bolton et al? I’m flabbergasted that a group of otherwise nice people, at this incredibly challenging period for our profession, would devote so much time, money, resources, etc. to producing such a flimsy excuse for research that offers not a shred of new let alone actionable thinking. I’m still trying to figure out whether I’m missing some pearls of intelligence, wisdom, ideas and such that readers can take to work, let alone the bank. Has anyone else picked up on your posts about this?