If the business world can have a comedian, Seth Godin is as good a stand up as might be found for the future of commerce. But that, of course, demeans as mere entertainment his more valuable messages.
Godin is clever, deeply intelligent, savvy in his subject matter and through years of trials and, yes, multiple failures, learned to package it all into a brand called Seth Godin.
About 150 people were fortunate yesterday to hear his “act” — for presentation or pitch are too average to describe and appreciate it. Beautifully coordinating his sharp observations with ironic and comedic slides, videos and musical snippets, Godin brought his message of the connection economy to Buffalo, where he grew up.
What’s this all mean for crisis managers? There are a number of Godin observations that resonate.
For one: Each person alive in 2013 has more resources at his or her fingers than the last king of France. Those resources get us in to a crisis, and can get us out.
Also, from Henry Ford’s assembly line, through teachers and parents who want us to “conform” to get “the best job,” we’re culturally conditioned to avoid risk. This is promoted and reinforced by our “reptile brain,” the medulla. Evolution tells us this part of the brain developed in fish some 500 million years ago. It’s what kept us alive, created awareness to danger and helped us flee the fire rather than just standing there in awe as flames engulfed us.
But in the modern world, it’s responsible for obsessive-compulsive behavior; personal day-to-day rituals and superstitious acts; slavish conformance to old ways of doing things; ceremonial re-enactments and obeisance to precedent, as in legal, religious, cultural, and other matters, according to www.sciforums.com.
For crisis managers, this explains a lot. When challenged, faced with danger in the form of a personal or professional crisis, we let our lizard brains take over so we’re protected. But as Godin applied this to professional life and entrepreneurship, it also holds us back; it’s designed to make us play it safe.
This is what crisis managers encounter in their first meeting with a CEO whose stock just dropped 35 percent in four hours because the feds just indicted his compliance people for taking bribes. The powerful instinct in all of us is to hunker down, hide, play defense — and hope the “danger” will move on and hunt elsewhere.
But of course the most effective crisis management calls for not listening to the lizard brain and stepping out, showing transparency, apologizing and taking responsibility — listening to your higher cognitive functions and logic.
Another fascinating point Godin made yesterday was that none of the people listening who use Twitter signed up for Twitter because Twitter itself pitched them or enticed them. They got on Twitter because people they admired and trusted said it was worthwhile.
The value of trust cannot be underestimated in crisis management either. A crisis is a loss of trust and it ends when trust is mostly or fully restored.
Godin didn’t directly discuss crisis, as his message is more personal and broad for the hopeful entrepreneur. But his thinking offers insights into superior crisis management.
The content of this blog is about crisis management and mismanagement in a digital age. It originates with Steve Bell, who spent 30 years as a journalist for the Associated Press and in four top editor positions at The Buffalo News. He is now Partner/Director of Public Affairs at Eric Mower + Associates, one of the nation’s largest independent advertising, integrated marketing and public relations agencies, with seven offices in the Northeast and Southeast. Learn more about EMA at http://www.mower.com. Steve’s blog is based on his own opinions and does not represent the views or positions of Eric Mower + Associates.