I’m off to Dunkirk today for a conference of French communications professionals, Cap’ Com, asking themselves whether the public still believe ‘la communication publique.’
The answer is that sometimes some of the public do, and sometimes some of them don’t. ‘Twas ever thus. It is probably fair to say though that people in advanced democracies are less inclined to take the word of politicians at face value in the way that perhaps their grandparents did. The era of deference went long ago. In many countries, and especially ours, necessary media scepticism has long since crossed the line to cynicism. As a result, people also believe the media less than they used to. So who do we believe? We believe each other. That explains the genius of Facebook – the concept of the friend.
The conference is happening at an interesting time. Yesterday’s meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel was significant, another important step on the road to a very different Europe. Communication will be central to their efforts to win support in their own countries and throughout Europe for a new Treaty designed to help implement the kind of discipline that was meant to accompany the euro in the first place. Watch out for the tricky referendum in countries where it might be least expected. Communication will be central too to their influence over the global financial markets that are watching their every move. So to the question, whether people believe communication any more, if the new vision of Europe is to be realised, they’re going to have to, or else yesterday will have been yet another ‘two steps forward, three steps back’ moment for the eurozone.
Communication between leaders is going to be important too. David Cameron put a brave face on events in Paris, arguing that Britain is somehow insulated from all this. But we’re not, and deep down he knows it. We may not be in the eurozone but yesterday the Germans and the French set a new course, which will impact upon us too. David Cameron knows that, and will need better answers than those he tossed out yesterday.
A couple of related points – who the hell are Standard and Poor, and how can it be guaranteed that there are no vested interests at play in their ever more regular pronunciations on the eurozone? (There you go, there’s me being very sceptical about the ‘communication publique’ of a credit ratings agency).
And how interesting that despite Vladimir Putin’s strong control of the media (most of which have not reported the protests against him yesterday), the Russian people are able to know enough of what is going on to generate such a demonstration of opposition. I sense that Merkel, Sarkozy and Cameron are more believed that Vlad right now.