If Weinstein Co was your client....
The first question of the evening I posed to this distinguished panel:
“From your professional knowledge and experience, if the Weinstein Company were your client, what Communication advice would you give them?”
There were immediate gasps and then a dead silence, both on the stage as well as in the audience. It was exactly my plan..
It was the third year in a row that I was moderating senior Communication execs from major companies for the USC-Annenberg/ThinkLA Marketing and Advertising panel before several hundred students. (Co-sponsor ThinkLA is the professional trade group comprised of Communication pros throughout Los Angeles.)
Taking the risk for many reasons.
I have learned that when moderating a panel in front of Millennials, you must take risks. You must create tension to keep the generation riveted.
So each year, I dig in beyond the humdrum usual of, “Tell us what you do, what your professional path was to this job and what advice you have for the students?” My goal is to pose the unusual, so that the thinking and advice from the panelists flows out in much more dynamic, meaningful and creative ways. I also want to model for the students that in this field of growing importance, they need to critically and creatively think, always stretching their minds way beyond the typical and expected.
The answer and then more questions.
The answers to the Weinstein question ranged from, “Nothing can save them. Just close the place down,” to “Even in the worst situations, if the thinking is honest and right, a company can recover.” Many examples were cited on both sides of the spectrum.
As challenging as the Weinstein question may have been, it was their answers to the next two questions that took me by surprise.
Again, again, again, data, data, data.
The next question:
“Give us the priority rating in your job to the following three tasks: Data. Strategy. Creativity.”
Four of the five without a beat, said, “Data.” Only one said, “Creativity.”
I know we are in an environment today driven by data, data, data. Everyone is talking and praising data. No doubt data, which is now so accessible is critical. But is it really what drives the world? I believe Creativity does. If people weren’t creating, the world would not move forward. Life would be boring and wither. I think data is today's trend and everyone is jumping on it as the most important business element of a new era. Even most Communication directors. Even Annenberg.
Bitcoin. Outside of investors, does anyone get it?
Then, I gave the panel three very different, unrelated items and asked them to comment. all which I believe have an influence upon Communication and the economy today:
"Steve Jobs. Truth. Bitcoin."
This time, it was Bitcoin that unexpectedly took center stage. The first answer was, “Why?” The second was, “I don’t get it.” They all pretty much agreed that Bitcoin was a non-starter. I know that the guy who is always on the mat next to me in yoga, a full time investor, is rubbing his hands together from his Bitcoin investments. Also, in my business accelerator group for the Red Table, there are several blockchain companies and investors. Brilliant people, all gambling on the success of Bitcoin. Either the investors aren’t seeing what the public thinks, or the public isn’t seeing what the investors know.
Then, the real work began.
As the event was drawing to a close, I turned to the panelist and told them, “Now your real work of the evening begins.” I then turned to the students in the audience, “During the reception, do not be intimidated to throw yourselves upon these five important people in the field where you are looking for jobs. Ask them questions. Ask them how you get an interview. Ask them who they can refer you to. Ask them for jobs.”
Then I turned to the panelists and said, "These are our students. They need your help, advice and support."
I hope I indeed stepped over the line. And I hope they ask me back again next year..