In today's economy, what kind of messages do people want to hear?
You have to step back and say, “Bad news is dominating all news.” This is not the prime moment to be buzzing about what is new, what is hip, and what is happening. This is really a time to send out messages of courage, longevity, and continuity.
How do you do that?
That is really an extraordinary challenge, and one of the reasons why the consumer markets are somewhat paralyzed. It is a very dicey time. I feel the HPs and Apples of the world will make it. Take a look at Wal-Mart, with its organic products and affordable pharmacy products in the US — they are doing a good job of conveying that kind of messaging. But this not the time to send a message of “Buy this” or “Invest in this.”
How are your clients reacting?
Enormously sanely—kudos to big business right now. But what we need is leadership: at the corporate, industry, community and government level. And if leaders rise and get people to communicate and be transparent, we're all going to be better off.
Is this a time for corporations to emerge as leaders?
If they do, they can't do it opportunistically. Don't start putting out billboards, saying, “We're with you.” A company that has already been doing good work and saying positive things, say, about health care or child obesity, can stay with it. But you can't today decide to save a soul because it is the right place to be if you haven't been there already.
Will there be a new day?
My generation will never regain its complete confidence in government, in wealth, and the future. And I don't think we want to go back to a world where it is Main Street versus Wall Street. And I don't want our children growing up to think that CEOs are pigs. I think we're going to go to a better place, where maybe there won't be such extremes.