Communication in the age of anger.
In his 2017 book Age of Anger, author Pankai Mishra argues we are now living in an “age of anger” and experiencing “a pandemic of rage.”
As the schism between the haves and the have-nots grows, so does the pitch and prevalence of anger and vitriol in traditional and social media, in public discourse, and at the ballot box.
Too many professional communicators understand how to exploit public outrage to achieve specific aims. Put simply, we can be a large part of the problem.
Appealing to people’s base instincts is a proven communication strategy. As Matt Morgan of University Hospital of Wales puts it: “Perhaps we enjoy self-righteous anger a little too much; perhaps we find comfort by playing the victim.” Whilst there is some truth to this, I suspect the reality is more complex.
We live in an era of digital self-absorption, where digital platforms are not designed to proffer us a variety of viewpoints or opinions. Quite the opposite. We are cocooned.
So how do we break through this cocoon? How do we pierce the bubble?
As communicators, we and the organisations we support, should be advocating constructive, rather than destructive, public discourse. We should be champions of ideas and conversation that appeal to the better angels of our nature in order to elicit more robust and lasting change.
I recently had a discussion with a CEO who was weary of fighting a rear-guard action against a tide of negative media coverage (traditional and social) when, as she put it, her organisation ‘does so much good in the world’. This begs a simple ‘what if’ question.
What if you could remove your organisation from the maelstrom of negativity? Not so far as to ignore the scrutiny of the media and broader zeitgeist, but to rise above it?
Today, organisations have more power than ever before to lead rather than react to public discourse. With the right strategy and skills, organisations can build the right audiences, in both size and influence, necessary to influence public discourse through facts not fabrications, and build (or rebuild) trust in their reputations.
From the communications perspective, this is an ‘owned media’ strategy, an approach that is becoming preferred by organisations from across an increasingly broad range of industry sectors. It requires organisations to become the publishers, to communicate directly with audiences, thereby taking a greater measure of control over their public representation.
A clearly defined culture and organisational purpose – one that meets majority public expectations – communicated consistently and effectively to the organisation’s audience, can fortify corporate reputation, position the organisation for thought and corporate leadership, and ultimately enable the organisation to achieve its objectives.
And that’s a story worth telling.