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‘Post-truth’ has been named word-of-the-year by the Oxford Dictionary.

public relations

For me, it’s best described in this scathing Economist article, ‘The Art of the Lie’, written at the height of the Trump campaign:

“… post-truth politics is more than just an invention of whingeing elites who have been outflanked.

“Feelings, not facts, are what matter in this sort of campaigning. Their opponents’ disbelief validates the us-versus-them mindset that outsider candidates thrive on.”

It’s one unexpected consequence of the digital age.

Each of the below presents, on its own, a unique and powerful issue. Combined they represent, for many of us, an unwieldy, unstable and unnerving puzzle. At the heart of it is individual anxiety and a loss of voice. That much we understand – Maslow invented his Hierarchy of Needs including ‘safety’ and ‘belonging’ in the 1940’s. The language has changed but the principle is the same. PR

The people left out:

  1. The poor and under-employed, feeling cheated by the rich.
  2. Another group of have-nots – people who don’t have access (or don’t want) the enormous body of information on the internet; the angry under-educated.
  3. The well informed, also deceived: 24/7 news has presented an array of unsightly realities – wars without meaning, politicians arguing pointless minutiae, corporate greed and union corruption; while the big issues (climate change amongst them) are ignored.
  4. Numerous other minority groups also left out of the political process (LGBTI, rural, indigenous).
  5. Social media adds to this, deliberately providing gathering points and mega-horns for the angry.
  6. Twitter, Facebook, for all their value, inadvertently spread fake news that influences opinion in unexpected ways.
  7. In the US The political language has become a blunt and crude instrument, shattering for millions the high ideal of democracy.
  8. Trump’s success through dissent is emboldening other wannabe leaders.
  9. The global migration of refugees adds uncertainty.

The journalists among us have done a wonderful job to expose the above. But it’s not their job to fix it; nor is it solely the role of politicians as they’re part of the problem.

If the problem is ‘exclusion’, the expertise required, at least in part, is better communications – bringing people together. The profession with the training is Public Relations:

  • Political advisors –  people advising politicians
  • Corporate Affairs – the Public Relations folks at board tables and in C-suites
  • Community Managers, Public Relations people engaging with communities
  • Media Relations – engaging with journalists
  • Marketers (now as much Public Relations as the rest of us) – engaging with the public

But this amorphous group of professionals, while claiming the skills for the tasks, is pathetically ill-equipped for the fix.

More thinking is required.

Author Peter Wilkinson

More posts by Peter Wilkinson

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