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Show Up Differently

A Lost Dog Story

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A version of this post originally appeared on Fastcocreate.com

My dog ran away on Christmas.

I was visiting my in-laws, and Buster, my five-year-old Cavalier, slipped out of their house in Kentucky and went on a canine adventure. Thankfully, a neighbor found him wandering the streets several blocks away and took him in. The neighbor’s daughter took to calling him Benji, a reference to the lost dog of cinema fame who has a knack for heroics and inspiration whenever he unexpectedly shows up. Buster has this effect on people.

The experience was terrifying, but also sort of cute and somehow an appropriate Christmas story. I’m sharing it now with others in the communications business for two reasons.

First, everyone likes a dog story, especially a Christmas Day lost dog story. It’s a narrative hook that increases the chance you will keep reading. Secondly, the story illustrates how our lives and our work have been profoundly changed because we live in a digital context.

There are few things that have not been altered by the growing impact of digital networks and big bandwidth. Not even a lost dog story. And this, for everyone in the communications and marketing business, is the key issue affecting our personal and agency futures.

dog

Let me explain. Buster was gone four hours; he was found rather quickly through a combination of traditional “analog” techniques (the neighbor had called the police, as did I, eventually) and more contemporary “digital” ones (the neighbor posted Buster’s mug on Facebook, and one of the post’s 247 shares reached a friend who tagged my wife, eventually).

While I am over-simplifying to make my point, this is how things happen now: There is a traditional, non-digital component to how we live and how we share information, and there is a digital one. They are part of the same whole. When you lose your dog, you call the police, and you go on Facebook.

For a communication professional, this is a stark personal reality that many still choose to ignore. I challenge myself all the time to make sure I can excel in my role, given the continually changing business landscape the digital context implies. It is not acceptable for me, or any of us, to think of digital communications as someone else’s responsibility. Conversely, it is also not acceptable to assume someone else will stay on top of the traditional, non-digital work.

Each one of us in the marketing and communication industries, from account coordinator to CEO, needs to show up differently, with a strong point of view and a sophisticated set of skills that cross the analog/digital divide. That’s one of my resolutions for the New Year. The other: Keep Buster on a short leash.

Mark Hass is president and CEO of Edelman U.S. and a member of the firm’s global executive committee.

Image by Linda Dannhoff.
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