Everybody involved in Brands and Marketing is now talking about the changed Communications landscape and many are still struggling to come to terms with what it really looks like in a post Inconvenient Truth, digitally-empowered age. The Pope and even Sir Martin Sorrell are now calling for an end to needless materialism – and, as we mentioned earlier, Campaign magazine in the UK has just published a double page spread entitled “Farewell to Consumerism”.

We now recognise that, as individuals and in communities, we can orchestrate genuine change for the better.

Climate Change has had a profound effect on all our lives – not only because we have suddenly realised that we are violating our one and only planet and polluting our atmosphere, but also because we now recognise that, as individuals and in communities, we can orchestrate genuine change for the better. In addition, we increasingly judge our leaders (businesses and politicians alike) on their ability to “do the right thing”, rather than simply gain fiscal or political advantage. We are becoming more selfless and more thoughtful; more aware and more conscious. We look to our peers for trust and wise decisions – and not to the leadership, institutions and mechanics of old. These trends may be new and they may be starting from a low base but they are growing fast and strong and are increasingly on the agendas of progressive leadership.

Meanwhile (as we examine in earlier chapters), words like “Content”, “Democracy” and “Open Sourcing” are being thrown around with seemingly carefree abandon – often by agencies and Communications companies who are hoping to cash-in on client and Consumer dependency and a more general confusion on what is really going on. The disarray feels a bit like Dot Com boom time all over again.

Needless glossiness is dying on its feet and is being replaced by a demand for authentic content and relevant and responsible conversations.

Corporate Reputation and Brand Marketing, Advertising and PR, Media and Content, are all now converging, as CEOs increasingly recognise that their company’s license to operate will almost certainly be affected by the behaviours of everything – from its brands to its employees, via its Supply Chain and its own Carbon footprint. As we examine in this book, some are suggesting these revolutions in Communications threaten the very nature of our current form of corporate Consumer capitalism. Traditional separation models – between the different types of agency or between those who spoke to regulators and those who sold to Consumers – can no longer apply. There is no single marketing solution – and those who try to either sell or spin their way out of trouble will receive short shrift from Citizens who have always been smarter and more insightful than they have often been given credit for. Needless glossiness is dying on its feet and is being replaced by a demand for authentic content and relevant and responsible conversations.

Irresponsible or inappropriate brand behaviour can and will adversely impact a company’s license to operate.

Nowhere is this more evident – and the pressure more intense – than in key industries such as energy, packaging, foods, waste, alcohol and transport. This is where irresponsible or inappropriate brand behaviour can and will adversely impact a company’s license to operate. CEOs, CMOs and CCOs need to grasp this new agenda. Just talking to so-called elites will not cut it anymore – nor will trying to operate a Church & State separation between those old elites and the so-called mass market. The conventional Pyramid of Influence, taught for years at Business Schools everywhere, has collapsed and a new Sphere of Public Engagement has emerged. At the heart of this, sits the Citizen.

Sphere of Public Engagement

Source: Edelman

Sphere of Public Engagement

In the new Sphere of Public Engagement, anybody and everybody might be watching. And anybody and everybody now has the power to act.

Government – in the UK at least – is becoming more engaged, rather than less, though the pace of change still remains slow. There is, however, now frequent talk from the Left and Right about fiscal intervention and windfall taxes, as well as new controls on advertising and marketing. Meanwhile, in an age where any Citizen can take companies and governments to task armed with the power and immediacy of the internet and where the conscience and appetite grows for a lower consumption economy, issues can jump out of nowhere. Companies and brands not only have to be fully transparent and properly accountable like never before, but their Communications teams now find themselves very much on the front line with analysts and investors, with government agencies, with NGOs and, of course, with real people as well as with the media. In the new Sphere of Public Engagement, anybody and everybody might be watching. And anybody and everybody now has the power to act. All businesses – including Communications companies – of the future must be shaped to cope with this complex and inter-dependent sphere, in all its dimensions. Simply making a great piece of film or coming up with a brilliant idea for some new form of ambient media is not going to cut it anymore.