Through The Looking Glass: A Message For Professional Communicators

Daniel P. Simon

Daniel P. Simon


Whatever your political views, last night’s stunning election outcome confirms two related facts that June’s Brexit vote raised merely as suspicions:

1) As Brexit presaged before this, the political concept of ‘Right’ vs ‘Left’ which has defined the terms of the developed world’s macroeconomic debate for the past century is dead. Done. Over. The New Debate is about Technology and its impact on Jobs, about Urban vs Rural, about Income Distribution, about Empirical vs Emotional and about Protectionism vs Globalization. In other words: our job, what we discuss, debate and think about every day has never been more relevant than it is this morning. Cold comfort for some perhaps but worth recognizing.

2) As Brexit also predicted, because this New Debate is uncharted territory, conventional wisdom is completely out the window and we are in for a ‘new normal’ of political and macroeconomic volatility. The developed world is Through The Looking Glass at this point. For professional communicators, that is both our challenge and our opportunity. The challenge is we may not be able to rely on the conventional wisdom – even as it applies to communications strategy. Already over the past 6 months, several media trainees have pointed out that some well-worn media prohibition I’m outlining “worked just fine for Trump”. Expect a lot more of that. We will have to rewrite several sections of the playbook, even as we’re prescribing it to our clients.

The opportunity is our clients and senior executives will be looking for strong, effective communications advice and support as they themselves navigate this new global uncertainty.

It’s imperative that communications pros project confidence, steadiness and calm to our clients and, in the words of Churchill, don’t “let a good crisis go to waste.”

Here’s a place to start:

Become Your Own ‘Tenth Man’

In Max Brook’s World War Z, the Israelis are eerily prepared for a seemingly unthinkable zombie apocalypse. Why? They had implemented the Tenth Man Protocol. After decades of conventional wisdom (about Munich, about the 6 day war) bringing them to the brink of annihilation, they mandated that if 9 of the country’s leaders agreed unanimously, it was the responsibility of the tenth man to disagree. To buck conventional wisdom. To think the unthinkable.

Conventional wisdom tells us that once in office, politicians tends to tack to the center and quietly abandon their most outlandish promises. Your tenth man will tell you to get ready for a very physical wall on the southern border, a trade war with China, heightened tension in the Pacific and a redrawn relationship with NATO. What will be the consequences of a Tenth Man world?

Not all of the playbook will be thrown away, not all of your experience is wasted, but get ready to have your professional instincts second guessed on numerous occasions moving forward.