If there’s a communicator’s equivalent to the Tea Party, we might have seen its manifesto in the form of a recent report by Dalberg Global Development Advisors, entitled The Single Bottom Line. If you think social programs are doing your corporations any good, think again, contend authors Daniel Altman and Jonathan Berman. Their message to CCOs: 

Profits, not posturing, make the best social contribution. The long view is back.

Working near (but not too near) our Nation’s Capital, I immediately conjured images of Mitt, Newt, Tim, Ron, Rick, Herman, Michelle, now John and maybe soon Sarah all mouthing the doctrine of fiscal and social restraint. Altman and Berman, it seems to me, are something similar for communications professionals to consider.

Time’s up on the fluffy stuff, they’re saying. It doesn’t carry its weight. It’s a distraction to management and a corporation’s prime directive – to increase shareholder value. Stop the special interests. Stop the entitlements.

You get the idea. They’re telling us that we’re out of time, and at least out of sync.

In degrees, I like what the Dalberg duo are saying. CSR, philanthropy, reputation management and the trust thing are to me the equivalent of the Emperor’s new clothes, so I welcome their observation that the purveyors of positioning and message need some new threads. The recession has created a climate of extreme impatience, and for CCO’s the consequences are accountability. So when social responsibility looks more like corporate expediency, when philanthropy smacks of strategic branding, and when reputation becomes shorthand for conformity, we have to expect – we can practically predict – the emergence of our own Tea Party hardliners.

It’s time to get practical about communications and to start speaking the language of competitive markets and the unrelenting bottom line. Not two. Not three.

Alan Kelly
CEO & Founder, Playmaker Systems
Adjunct Professor, The George Washington University