We are the Lens
As professional communicators, we stand between people and
information and give it shape and form. We are the lens through which
information is filtered. In most cases, whether we are journalists or
organizational commuicators, our intention is to make things clear for
Unfortunately, there are communicators who
distort the information. So the lens is scratched – or clouded with finger
prints – and the audience sees a fuzzy image.
The True Believer – Distortion by Accident
Try though we may, it’s unlikely that anyone can be truly impartial. Everyone’s view of the world is coloured by his or her experiences, learning and beliefs (and maybe their Meyers-Briggs Type and their astrological sign).
We imagine the truth, as we see it, is the real deal. We unintentionally distort the information we communicate to fit our personal world view. Knowing that we all have biases that filter the way we experience, receive and transmit information, I think it makes sense to declare them up front so your audience knows the nature of the lens. But then, I’m biased. Not only am I an over-40, Honda-driving Canadian with a liberal arts education (and an ENFJ Leo), I’m a natural optimist who believes people want to be understood and believed when they communicate.
Exceptions to that cherished belief bring us to the second type of distortion.
The True Deceiver – Distortion by Design
These are the people who deliberately set out to shape a less than truthful picture of the facts. Whether they engage in propaganda, spin doctoring, political campaign rhetoric, press agentry or "sensational" journalism, true deceivers embellish the "truth" that serves their ends and diminish what doesn’t serve them. They know they’re being "less than truthful" and so does most of their audience. This is the stuff that inspires public inquiries. This is the stuff that gets people fired. This is the stuff that scares the public and erodes trust.
Disintermediation and CEOs who blog
As communication professionals, we need to step up our efforts to get and share a clear picture, one that’s undistorted by accident or design. If we don’t, we risk redundancy.
Communicators are intermediaries in a world
that is, increasingly disintermediated. We once were the "source" for current and relevant information. Today, people don’t need to go to traditional
news organizations for news. They can go to the Internet. Consumers don’t have to rely on what companies tell them about their products. They can find rants, raves, and reviews of almost every product or service on the Net.
Online, they find everyone from lunatics to CEOs (and some who fit both categories) expressing their opinions on millions of topics. When people can go right to a web site or blog and get the story (official or unofficial) for themselves, public relations people and journalists are cut out of the game. We lose the role of leading and shaping opinion.
Some might argue that’s a good thing. But, for most people, going to the Net is a bit like a walk in the dark without your glasses. You’re dazzled by the brightest and lulled into a false sense of safety by the familiar.
I’ll argue that someone needs to take on the role of discerning what’s true and presenting it to people so bombarded with information they no longer know what to believe. That "someone" can and should be professional communicators. The trick is to demonstrate that our lens is as smudge-free as it gets. Or, at least, declare the tint of the filter.