What the hell's going on out there?

Where's the commercial skill, listening and yes, many of you won't like this, maturity?

Breathe in and breathe out before making rushed decisions, advises Jeffrey Manton
Breathe in and breathe out before making rushed decisions, advises Jeffrey Manton

Of late, us old guys have been wondering what the hell's going on out there.

Here’s the thing. We need commercial skill, better listening and yes, many of you won't like this, more maturity; or we fritter away the position of CCO, director, manager and whatever hoop-la now hangs on the title.

Commercial skill - everything we do must generate profit and shoving out a twitter campaign or re-branding without measured impact doesn't add value.

That isn't just measurement of media hits - that's proven impact on profit or take-up of a service - that's the change and your bonus should be based on it like the rest of the sale teams and the CEO.

And commercial is practical. Communication is not an art, it is a forensic science.

We're hiding behind social media, saying we have to engage, we have to act now.

And to an extent that's true - just look at the youth vote in the election. But you can't do it all. Where's the narrowcasting? Where's the forensic analysis of which tool, to whom, at what cost, and with what the target wants to hear - not what you want to tell them.

And so to listening.

Our ministries of state have communications teams who shove out stuff but that isn't communication - communication occurs when somebody listens and acts in the way you want them to; and there's scant evidence that all the money spent in the public sector achieves anything of the sort.

And the private sector may go the same way unless it fills its own lungs with air before it advises on more branding.

So yes, maturity.

And that doesn't always come with age. It does come with experience and people who have the skill to look beyond the next second on social media. It's why journalists don't always make good communications chiefs - they focus on the media, they react.

What we need in our next leap are people with that that maturity, those listening skills, that practical ability to implement on budget.

So I was twenty once - and director of communication in a global firm that faced a crisis involving the Prime Minister of the day - I prepped all the Q and A, I wrote all the letters to customers, I briefed the sales teams - and then I went to brief the Chairman and he said: 'hold on, see where we are in a week.'

And I ranted behind closed doors. You know what, it did go away, it did die down - we would have stoked the fire, no more, no less. That Chairman was right. I never forgot the lesson.

Think about it. Breathe out now.

Jeffrey Manton is an award-winning writer and advises private and public sector organisations

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