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April 06, 2009

Not fooling anyone

Over the weekend, some important stories have zeroed in on how the hand-in-glove relationships that exist on both side of the Atlantic between governments and the banks are not in the public interest.

The Bill Moyers Journal has a compelling interview with William K. Black about the financial regulatory framework of the last ten years in the U.S. and the significant bearing it's had on the current financial crisis.

Glenn Greenwald has covered off Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Wall Street's ownership of government and The Raw Story has a good summary on both of these.

Switching sectors, over in Pharma Marketing, we’ve got the ‘faux community’ of My Crohen’s & Me, created by UCB for its Crohn's disease drug Cimzia to look like a community, but without the option of any interaction from consumers.

Pharma Blog pic

These governmental and commercial initiatives are attempts to live in false, walled-garden environments, with all the benefits and none of the risks of real conversational dialogue, and both miss a massive trick.

A critical question is the one asked by the Pharma Marketing blog: Why are the concepts of these "faux" communities and social frameworks preferred when perfectly "real" communities with all the benefits of enhanced dialogue can be created?

It’s not just a matter of integrity, leadership and values, though they help. It’s about how much more effective and sustainable it is to bridge reality gaps instead of the effort of creating diversions to go around them, and how much more easily managed and better are the advantages of ‘real’ as an approach as compared to denial as a strategy.

On April Fool’s Day, this year renamed Financial Fool’s Day, city bankers attempted to escape the attention of protesters against the banks by donning the camouflage of the casual dresser. Who they were kidding isn’t clear. A lot of effort goes in and the damage of distrust remains.

Banker's pic small

As an allergic reaction to the radical transparency, blatant integrity and the call for authenticity that the digital environment asks for from governments, businesses and brands alike, a rash of affrontery has been breaking out in established circles. It claims the right to maintain the status quo, even when the voices of change that challenge it are all around.

Leadership of connected communities goes beyond putting out a message. Brands promises can be monitored, marketing becomes vision delivered as a service and leadership has to act responsibly. One KPI of digital leadership is having ideas that are sufficiently big to lead; One way towards achieving this is via the acceptance of communal dialogue as a means of generating value.

Everything else is playing politics. Politics, as we know, can be a petty path, a place of partisan opinion and an inhibiter of innovation. It's tempting for management executives to choose a stranglehold of social communication as an alternative strategy to the innovation and leadership challenges of social community management, and this is often the attempt they choose when they play politics. No matter how subtly it's done, it's a strategy that can’t help but be short-lived.

Authenticity is an increasingly valuable commodity because, as we become more sophisticated in our tastes, anyone with any kind of socially-intelligent radar can sniff out fakery out at a hundred paces; any business that isn’t reflecting its inherent strengths and making real connections with consumers is scoring less and less as socially astute demands for enagagement come to the fore from audiences.

It’s increasingly unlikely that any of these initiatives, or ones like them, are fooling anyone. The biggest news from the April Fool’s Day season this year is, as far as that goes, the rules of the game are changing.

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