Edelman Makes Case for Going Direct to Audiences in Speech Delivered at University of Notre Dame

Richard Edelman, president and CEO of communications marketing firm Edelman, today called for companies to reconsider their approach to communicating with their stakeholders and consumers. In a speech titled “Go Direct,” delivered at the 2018 Conference on Corporate Communication at the Mendoza College of Business at the University of Notre Dame, Edelman suggested that every company should become its own media company and that every organization, public and private, should have a news operation that speaks to stakeholders directly through its owned and social channels, and through its leaders and employees.

“It is time to Go Direct — not to supplant media, but as a necessary supplement to it,” said Edelman. “The Edelman Trust Barometer found that mainstream media is read by under half of people in the United States and Western Europe, and media is the least-trusted institution globally. Go Direct is a way for business to help restore civil discourse, which has been damaged by this distrust and by disinformation. We do this best by increasing people’s access to quality information.”

In his speech, Edelman proposes a new structure for outgoing content from the communications function, comprised of two equally weighted arms:

  • The “Promote” arm tells the company’s story directly through journalistic-quality content, led by a team of experienced journalists who go beyond company walls to gather sources and stories. The “Promote” arm also offers online communities that encourage direct conversation between the company and its stakeholders, providing a forum for employee or customer comments. This arm will be vital for companies in low-interest categories no longer covered sufficiently by mainstream media.
  • The “Educate arm” operates with a civic mission, investigating local issues that matter to employees and the community, working to fill the news hole left by disappearing local media outlets. This arm would be structured as a non-profit foundation, supported by the company but functioning independently, and would be overseen by a government representative, an industry leader, an NGO expert, and one or more highly qualified former journalist. The Educate unit will not only generate original content, but also serve as an aggregator of important news and analysis from other sources.

“The ultimate goal of Go Direct is to create an information safety net,” said Edelman. “By keeping employees informed and advancing the cause of truth, business can help ensure an educated populace and safeguard the fact-based discourse that is essential for a well-functioning democracy.”