Communication has entered a new era : the critical society.
Information and communication technologies have transformed our society on an unprecedented scale. This has caused a major shift in the way public communication is perceived: it has put an end to the supremacy of the message.
Society has become critical because any public statement is first and foremost understood through the lens of the speaker’s identity: her or his relation to society, her or his commitments, the institution she or he represents. This critical era analyses each message by first referring it to its messenger. The constant question that is asked by this critical society to a public speaker is no longer “what are you saying?” or “how are you saying it?” but “where are you speaking from?”. Each message needs to be validated by the messenger’s actions, commitments and beliefs.
In our critical era, any public utterance puts the speaker’s consistency and expertise to the test. The era of institutional, vertical and unilateral communication is over.
In this critical era, communicating means participating in society instead of just addressing it. How can one improve this participation? How can one legitimise and defend it? And most of all, in this context, how can one preserve one’s leadership? Having a well crafted story is no longer enough. Nowadays, leaders are expected to commit for the common good, legitimise their positions based on expertise, be transparent as well as trustworthy, and engage in a constant horizontal dialogue with all their different stakeholders and society as a whole.
Communication requires analysing a leaders’ positions before helping them define and spread their messages. This is not just a matter of caution: it is a founding act. The major duty of today’s consulting firms is to help their clients make their message both more meaningful and impactful. A company’s stance in the public debate should not be left to the randomness of comments and corrections.
Taking a stance is a strategic choice, because it determines present and future messages. It must be consistent with the past to gain a critical consistency that in turn will drive impact.
Public Relations and Communication as an industry needs to adapt to the new expectations of this critical society. The recent integration of strategic communication to consulting services illustrates that the traditional visions of our roles are changing: they are undergoing processes of transformation and digitalisation, and becoming increasingly complex.
We believe that this renewal calls for a new type of organisation, a new kind of consulting service, more horizontal and collaborative in its essence. In this critical era, WEMEAN is the next generation of the leadership communication.
In this critical era, leaders’ main role is to create meaning and to nourish their companies’ sense of purpose, with transparency, leadership, and commitment.