Monthly insights from our esteemed President, Ivan Levacic.
In a month of highlights, of brilliant sights, sounds and conversations – when I’ve gone from celebrating the achievements of our profession at the IABC Victoria Bronze Quill Gala, to connecting with our global network at World Conference in Washington DC, and then on to New York to see Nick Cave tear down the Beacon Theatre on Broadway, the thing that still resonates most sharply with me is a seemingly innocuous little email that landed in my inbox a week ago.
A “WTF” moment
It’s refreshing, as a seasoned (and yes, you can read any inference into that adjective you like … ) practitioner who sometimes thinks he’s seen it all, heard it all, done most of it and put the rest of it to rights over a fragrant Pinot Gris at some point over the journey, to still have the odd eye opening “WTF” ( = Well & Truly Flummoxed … what did you think I meant … ?) moment and this month, it came in the form of that message.
The memorable little email in question was an invitation from a nameless, but globally dispersed market research firm, to attend a Thought Leaders’ breakfast on the new “Authenticity Trend”. Its blurb (and I’m including it here verbatim) was:
What is it, how do you get it, how does it impact consumers?
The EDM went on to breathlessly reveal that “Authenticity is one of the biggest trends of our time … ”
Fair dinkum, I was so surprised I nearly fell off my unicorn! I thought to myself – “Wow – authenticity is a trend? All this time I must have been living in some (unicorn friendly) parallel universe thinking that authenticity is the single, purest, most precious thing we as communicators hold as the foundation of our work; that it’s what we aspire to and try to achieve and convey to our audiences every single day.
But no, according to this esteemed global organisation, that, without a hint of irony, was inviting us along to discover what authenticity is and how best to capitalise on it, it’s a trend. I wondered what next year’s, or next week’s communications “trend” will be. Expressive Apathy? Sympathetic Deflection? Credible Insincerity?
While it’s easy (and fun) to lampoon this kind of nonsense, to say this is a period in the evolution of our profession, equally characterised by challenges and opportunities, is an understatement. Speaking at the IABC Gala earlier this month, I observed that the assembled guests on the night comprised a room full of people uniquely gifted and qualified to either flourish in a “post-truth world” or to repel the notion once and for all. It’s a contemporary choice that confronts communicators. We have the skills, the language, the data, the channels and the strategies to turn a message to any purpose we choose, and that choice lies at the ethical heart of what we do.
Highlights from Washington
Among the many highlights of my time at Wold Conference in Washington this month was the opening keynote by our own Gabrielle Dolan who reinforced that authenticity is the non-negotiable difference between success and failure in business storytelling. Another was the brilliant “World Café” workshop where an auditorium full of communicators from all over the world worked in small, rotating groups to examine the role of ethics in modern communications. This revealing session built on the leadership of ethical practice demonstrated by the International Executive Board of the IABC in initiatives like the Change.org petition to communicators to acknowledge the IABC Code of Ethics and to publicly re-state their commitment to ethical practice.
July mid-week mingle
In this strange contemporary landscape of shifting representations of reality, it’s good to know that some things are still reassuringly authentic, like my promise that you’ll have an amazing time if you attend our upcoming free, members-only Midweek Mingle at Campari House on 12 July (proudly sponsored by WE Buchan). At this mixer, the fellow members you’ll connect with will be authentically interesting and inspiring, the wine and food you’ll share with them will be authentically delicious and the connections you’ll establish doing so will be authentically valuable and enduring.
Early reports that I was planning on bringing my unicorn along on the night have now been retracted, so that’s reassuring too.