I write to you with a heavy heart.
As the historic events of Wednesday, January 6th’s attack on the Capitol unfolded on our television, my husband and I watched in stunned amazement.
This assault by American citizens on the symbol of our democracy shook me to my emotional and moral core in ways that the foreign attack of the U.S. on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 never did.
George Friedman of Geopolitical Futures put into words my sentiments of the past week:
“I was forced into silence by grief. When something enchanting dies, it calls for a moment of silence over what was lost. Every word uttered demeans the moment. And so I was silent.”
Watching these events brought back memories of a family road trip to D.C.
Since my father was the publisher of a local New York City newspaper covering multiple congressional districts, we had the good fortune to meet these Representatives in their Capitol offices.
For me, the highlight of the trip was riding on the Capitol’s underground railway with a member of the House Rules Committee and being introduced to the Chairman.
Having traveled abroad over the last 4 years, my husband and I have felt a distinct difference in the value of our US passports caused by the words and actions of the 45th President.
And it saddens me deeply:
- Because my grandparents and great-grandparents came to this country seeking refuge from religious intolerance with hopes for a better life.
- Because my father and father-in-law both proudly fought in Europe during World War II.
- Because my great uncle was a community organizer in the South where he met and married his Georgia-born wife.
Why Democracy Matters
Despite last week’s insurrection, I believe in the continuing power of this great experiment we call America. More importantly, I have faith that these malicious activities will leave our country more unified and willing to do more to heal our deep and bitter divides.
Because these actions forced most elected officials to choose to support the future of democracy.
In The Federalist Papers, the Founding Fathers provided a framework to guide government over time. In it, they defined the responsibilities of both leaders and individual citizens.
Yuval Levin of American Enterprise Institute explains:
“Our system of government creates an interlocking array of institutions and powers that takes some of the foibles and limits of human nature for granted, sets ambition to counteract ambition, and seeks to avoid dangerous excesses in any direction.
So although our system of government knows people are imperfect, it still has high expectations of all of us and will not work if those aren’t met.”
The Role of Leadership In Democracy
Leadership is entrusted to men and women to serve the greater good regardless of race, economic status, country of origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, and/or other differences.
Aaron Sorkin’s movie The American President echoes these ideas. The President’s speech writer, Lewis Rothschild says:
“People want leadership… They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.”
During this exchange, as envisioned by the Founding Fathers, Lewis asserts his right as a U.S. citizen to question the actions of the President.
Why Words and Actions Matter
Elected officials and business leaders must realize and consider their words and actions matter BECAUSE they have power and consequences.
As a result, the impact of what you say and do extends beyond your constituents, employees, customers and investors to a broader global audience who watch and record them for broad distribution.
In the State of Georgia, the Republican elected state officials knew this only too well. During the post-2020 Election Runoff for its 2 U.S. Senators, they knew the world was watching.
At a press conference in the Georgia State Capitol on Tuesday, December 1, 2020, Voting Systems Implementation Manager, Gabriel Sterling, expressed his concerns that “It’s all gone too far.”
Addressing the President, Sterling said, “You need to step up and … stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence.”
Sterling could see where the President’s words and actions were leading. And he clearly alerted the public to this danger when he said: “Someone’s going to get hurt, someone’s going to get shot, someone’s going to get killed, and it’s not right.”
What Politics and Marketing Have In Common
While this is a marketing newsletter and I don’t want to use this forum to discuss politics, it’s important to point out that marketing and politics have grown out of shared history and objectives that extends back centuries. Specifically:
- Politics focuses on gaining power and, in the extreme, this results in military action. Further, money supports political power.
- Marketing focuses on acquiring income and long-term value. In turn, this results in the creation of its own power structures that can extend beyond geopolitical boundaries.
Therefore, these recent political events in the US have and will continue to have an impact on your marketing, both directly and indirectly.
Because we live in a highly divisive world where people’s faith in leadership, trust and inclusivity have been shattered. As Edelman’s Trust Barometer consistently revealed over the past few years, this erosion applies across government, business and media.
As a result, your audience not only pays attention to what’s happening in D.C. and their hometowns, but also to how your business responds with words and actions.
Further, this corporate accountability extends to the veracity of the media your organization creates and uses. Since media in this case refers broadly to include your content marketing, communications in all forms (across owned, third party and social media platforms), and information and data.
So your organization is accountable whether you created the content or used the platform to deliver advertising or communication.
As proof of the importance major organizations view their responsibility, many social media and online merchandising platforms quickly banned the President. Additionally, major corporations withdrew their contributions to the President and others. While banks, notably Deutsche Bank and Signature Bank, refused to provide funding to him.
Because these companies care about the long-term impact on their brand, profitability and shareholder value.
How Political Action Translates To Marketing
The reality is:
History repeats itself because human nature remains consistent over time.
To appreciate the longer-term human impact of the Capitol’s broken glass, listen to Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. While he’s now an American citizen who deeply believes in this country and what it stands, he grew up in Allied-occupied Austria.
As a child, he experienced the impact Nazism had on ordinary citizens first hand. So he provides a unique perspective on and insights into the January 6th attack on the Capitol.
For Schwartzenegger, the Proud Boys who broke the glass of the Capitol building to trample the principles upon which American democracy was founded were the equivalent of the Nazis who participated in Kristallnacht, The Night of Broken Glass.
After World War II, the people who participated in Nazi activities became broken men. Most of them weren’t anti-semites or Nazis. Rather they were the ordinary people next door who just followed along.
They regularly drank to wash away their guilt and then returned home to act out their self-loathing by beating and berating their wives and children.
Schwartzenegger’s personal experience in post-Nazi Austria parallels the American experience where white supremacy runs deep. While mainly focused on descendants of enslaved Africans, this intolerance also extends to other races, religious groups and sexual orientation.
Referring to John F. Kennedy’s book, Profiles In Courage, Schwartzenegger calls out those politicians that put personal gain and power ahead of their higher responsibility. And he considers them to be complicit with the mob who carried the flag of self-righteous insurrection into the Capitol.
Further, Schwartzenegger offers insights into how America’s broken glass was experienced beyond our borders. Besides geo-political adversaries like Russia, China, North Korea and Iran, people abroad worried about America and the ideals this country stands for.
“As shaken as we are about the events of the recent days, we will come out strong because we now know what can be lost. … President-elect Biden, we stand with you today, tomorrow, and forever in defense of our democracy and from those who would threaten it.”
Based on these lessons of history, how do you use the broken glass of these recent events to strengthen your organization and community?
Actionable Marketing Approach:
Develop a comprehensive analysis and assessment of how your organization does business, including:
- Examine how you treat your buyers, employees and greater community. As part of this process, talk to members of each of these groups. Don’t assume you know what they think because this disrespects them.
- Analyze what your competitors are doing including major players like Amazon, Google, Apple and Facebook.
- Audit and analyze your product, services and content offerings. Take a broad and inclusive approach. Include how you engage with your audience and others across devices, media platforms and Real life and real time interactions.
- Examine all of your organization’s systems (not just your MarTech stack) and data. Determine how you protect the privacy and security of data you collect from your various audiences. This is important not only to build audience trust, but also to protect your business from potential legal action.
- Track and analyze the key metrics across your entire business (not just marketing) to ensure that it works as efficiently as possible. Remember you must be able to talk in terms your CFO and the financial markets understand.
I hope that you, your family, your friends and your community stay healthy and safe because we need each other. We’re stronger when we work together and help each other to have better lives.
As always feel free to reach out to me if you have any questions or other input that can help our broader community.
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- Broken Glass Photo via https://unsplash.com/photos/pVEcNabAg9o cc zero
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