Sunday, January 23, 2011

Where's Your Hymnal?

Through the 1990s, the operations manual for corporate public relations was pretty clear -- speak with one voice through one spokesperson. That worked in the Ptolomey-like world before those darn internets. Now that networking atomizes single points of information distribution and the one-to-many decrees ring about as relevant to the masses as that scientific reference in the previous sentence, where do you turn?

Time to go back to church.

As surely as our current media models are not the product of the new age, but instead a revival of old (perhaps the original) opinion-fueled penny and party press of the 19th and early 20th century, perhaps the most effective paradigm for the large entity seeking to reach out to its constituency can be found in the same place.

Every church has a leader, but only in the most extreme cults of personality do you find a singular voice. There are assistants, lay readers and a choir. For the most part, they work from a single text, and sing from a single hymnal. The most effective religious leaders are the ones that can relate on a personal level with individual parishioners, yet at the same time appeal to the masses of the congregation. While they may hold the central spot within the service, the preacher or priest or devotional leader shares the space with voices are very different, even though they are carrying essentially the same message.

Now -- apply that to your strategic communication here in the oh-so-advanced 21st century. There may be a primary spokesperson -- and it still may be the CEO -- who gives the sermon. But the brands/institutions/teams with the broadest bases employ their lay persons to repeat and amplify that message. Others within the group handle the other tasks of speaking, and those that can sing provide the word according to Team in their unique voices.

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