Well, look at that. It's been almost two months since I blogged. And look at that, we all survived.
There's little use making excuses for taking an unintended holiday from this site. I usually mix my mea culpa with a bit of rationalization, but that won't do here. Instead, let us never speak again of what will live in infamy as the 60-Day Feeling Fuller Fast.
Onward and upward, I say.
The major new development of the last 60 days is my new role with a marketing communications firm in South Bend. It's the fourth position I've held under the umbrella of "Communications," a catch-all term that is emblazoned on my Bethel College degree. A job in communications, of course, can take many forms, but it amazes me how similar the jobs of television journalist, political apologist, and marketing strategist have become in the year 2010.
To be sure, they have always had similar threads in their fabric: Each entail crafting messages to be digested by a mass audience. The elements of sound communication are nearly universal in theory, even if they are not universal in practice.
After I left the life of a journalist, I continued to work with news people very closely in my professional life, and watched them very closely in my personal life. And I'm finding a rather troubling trend emerging. Marketing and PR (and, by extension, political spokesmanship) have long been viewed by journos as the second-tier step-children of the communications family because of their inherent appeal to emotion. Journalism, it has long been held, is a communications purist's ultimate concoction of disseminating information that is purely factual, without relying on the frills of "warm fuzzies" or emotional appeals.
And yet, as I view it, the "news" product of the current day seems much more intent on evoking emotion than informing an audience.
This is a topic I've written about several times before, here and here. I won't re-hash those thoughts, but I will add this wrinkle: If journalism wasn't always like this, if it has in recent history moved closer to marketing in its form and its function, then perhaps we can glean from current marketing campaigns something about the future of journalism.
Which brings us to the recent ad campaign for Taco Bell which reminded me of my recent post ("recent," of course, being purely relative based on the introduction to this post) on the critical lack of reality in the world today. You no doubt saw it - I'm speaking of Taco Bell's new "Drive Thru Diet" campaign.
It honestly took my viewing it several times to realize this was not a joke. A woman claims to have lost 54 pounds while regularly indulging in Taco Bell's new "leaner" menu options. Even if that is true, there are so few people for whom this would work that making it into a marketing campaign is at best disingenuous.
Of course, Taco Bell makes the necessary disclaimers about all this. ("These results are not normal...but for me, they're fantastic."m) But who's kidding who: The overall message of the ad is clearly, "Taco Bell can help you lose weight." Put aside for a minute this comes in between campaigns for the "Volcano Taco" (seriously, nothing neon pink should ever be ingested by humans) and the 5-layer nacho cheese burrito. Marketers have license to appeal to emotions, but they do not have license to pass off irregularities for readily-attainable results.
If your ad campaign is equal parts claimer and disclaimer, it's time to return to the drawing board.
And so it goes for any role, in any profession. If journalism is heading the way of campaigns like the "Drive Thru Diet," heaven help us. (Indeed, some would say it is already there.) But exercising dishonesty is not a problem confined to the field of communications. Business, retail, service - they all have sharks in the water.
So consider this a call to separate yourself from the pack. Tell the truth, without disclaimer. Let your messages speak for themselves, without the need for lengthy explanation. In other words, "Let your 'yes' be 'yes' and your 'no' be 'no.'"
Indeed, this is the quickest way to stand out, no matter how many jobs you hold.
You feel me?