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Corporate America’s 21st Century Secret Weapon: Hire anyone that remembers Rush

The trouble with PR and marketing is that many companies are leaving it in the hands of young, impressionable kids that don’t have marketing and PR degrees, otherwise known as the audience.

Let’s start with the music industry, which has had to undergo some enormous changes over the past decade. First there was the music sharing platform, Napster. Now Spotify has become a welcome alternative for kids as long as they endure a few ads, which none seem to mind. They help to market the brand promoting their playlist through social 1

The problem is that in the 21st Century, sharing has become a game of one-upmanship with an strategy being solely focused on the popularity of the teen who could care less about the brand. Worse, each using a distribution tool that embeds images and content indefinitely into a land called cyberspace where no one can access it, earning likes, shares and comments FOREVER. The incredible utility is the personal cell phone which serves as witness to a young person’s attendance and proximity to singers and bands, something that no ticket holder at a Rush concert would have allowed to infiltrate their personal connection with Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart.

The wall between artist and audience is a now thousands of 4.5″ x 2.3″ glass panels, armpits, depending on one’s height, and a giant sea of raised arms with electronic devices attached. The concert experience is no longer a musical mystery ride; it’s become a trip to the electronics store where live bands are background music. If you happen to be in the PR or marketing industry you’ll even spend some time wondering what purpose it serves to allow the audience to have free rein over the artist’s music and performance.

It may come down to the fact that many social media professionals are in their twenties and thirties, not old enough to remember the magnificent concerts of Rush, Pink Floyd, Cheap Trick, and Journey just to name a few. There are so many more, and they were respected – their music, their talent – they made music, they didn’t just play it and the audience lived it. We didn’t tape it. We weren’t part of the band’s social sharing team. We came to be entertained.

Somewhere in the past decade, the cell phone has been given more power than our artists and musicians. In a recent concert, I found myself being pulled with a massive mosh pit as each person ignored the breathing space of their fellow concert goer. Arms in the air with cell phones or iPads attached, the entire pit instinctively followed the singer. He moved left, the entire mob heaved left. He jumped right; the pit moved right. I didn’t want to move. A child in front was getting crushed. The cell phone wanted what the cell phone wanted.

For far too many companies, traditional public relations and marketing is becoming a thing of the past. Brands and assets are being enthusiastically pushed out to social media channels accompanied by hashtags once meant to organize thoughts now an identifier that can be used by anyone on social media touting any tweet or comment (see #AskJPM #McDstories).

Who can forget the great PR campaigns that changed America beginning with the Pilgrims, religious freedom and Thomas Paine’s Common Sense.

Imagine any of those campaigns being caught on a cell phone, shared on Instagram with a Walden filter, posted on Facebook and tweeted out to Paine’s fellow Patriots. Would it have worked the same or would the “likes” or shares distracted from the mission.

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