We are looking for people to join us in developing a new communications manifesto for a polarised world.
Polarisation can have positive effects – making us care about issues and take action. Brands can use it to provoke debate, like Ben & Jerry’s “Refugee Rights” campaign, which forced audiences to consider where they stand on the question of how we should treat people making their way to our shores.
But polarisation can be dangerous. Polarised groups are more susceptible to fake news, less sympathetic to the ‘out group’ and, in extremis, more willing to cause harm to others. If you believe the other side is evil, then it’s easier to justify almost anything to stop them – even storming Capitol Hill.
Communications often polarises people. More and more campaigns involve ‘taking a stand’ on an issue. This approach drives headlines and engagement – and it can change the world for the better.
But when you stand ‘for’ something, you inevitably stand ‘against’ something – or someone. That can have unforeseen consequences – those on the other side of the debate can harden their hearts, retreat to their echo-chambers – in some cases, they can lash out.
You can see polarisation’s effects all around us – from the breakdown of trust between the UK and EU, to furious debates about the Royal Family’s treatment of Meghan and Harry.
As the world gets more polarised, it’s time to think carefully about the consequences of our actions. After all, our industry’s darkest hour – the collapse of Bell Pottinger – was due to the abuse of the power of polarisation.
We should do bold, purposeful and provocative work, but must be careful not to make things worse.
For example, when Paddy Power campaigned against homophobia during the Russian World Cup, their biggest concern was to avoid inciting violence against the very people whose rights they were promoting.
The principles will be published later this year. If you would like to be part of the community of communications professionals who develops them, register your details here to receive an invitation.