Monday, September 14, 2009

Be Provocative -- But Don't Mistake it with Bad Behavior

We are big advocates of being provocative as part of a well-conceived communications strategy. Sometimes, the best way to get people to wake up to a need for change is to challenge conventional wisdom. Ask questions, throw down the gauntlet to established forces, change things up.

That said, in the past few days, we have all been exposed to bad behavior that has gotten a lot of attention: A member of Congress calling the President a liar in the middle of an important speech to the joint members of both Houses; and (admittedly, at a much more mundane level) a singer rudely interrupting an acceptance speech at an award show to advocate for one of the other contestants.

Don't get me wrong. In both cases, the parties in question completely have the right to comment loudly to express their beliefs; That's what makes this a great country. What bothers me about these two episodes is that both of them resulted in front page news. And, in turn, that could encourage acts of rudeness and bad behavior rather than constructive discussion. I am not sure of a solution, but feel compelled to raise the question.

So, what are some ways to provoke debate as part of a communications strategy?

-Present your products in a way that clearly explains the shortcomings of current approaches and asks the market to question the status quo;
-Make speeches that ask the right questions about conventional wisdom;
-Do point-of-view editorials and press releases raising these interesting questions;
-Embark on educational programs that cause people to wonder if current approaches are the right ones;
-Use social media to lead the market to ask the questions; and
-Lots of other ideas.

Please, just don't count on bad behavior to accomplish your goals.

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