There’s a greeting card that often peers out at me from a newsstand on Regent Street. It reads “It’s the difference between knowing your s*** and know you’re s***!” Indeed!
A couple of months back the Shadow Secretary of State for Exiting the EU was taken to task for a Tweet containing the most basic of grammatical gaffs. That lauded man of words Sir Tim Rice was amongst those pointing out the day-one, week-one of English class errors.
“Does it really matter?,” you may be saying – although I suspect you’re not. But in an age in which social media dominates and email has (largely) replaced the written letter, should we get too hung-up on the new world of informality? I feel we really should because once standards begin to slip the trend is inevitably downwards.
When I was invited to guest edit a magazine aimed at a specific (professional) audience my immediate reaction was that I knew very little about the world the reader inhabits.
What I do, hopefully, know – after a quarter of a century as a PR, marketer, journalist and editor – is a little about communicating in business. And that communication can sometimes be as much about presentation as it is content. So, in looking around for ideas for my editorial in the magazine, I decided to cast the net wider and onto the way in which basic, good standards in business can be so easily compromised.
You, dear reader, will I know have “professional” as part of your career DNA so much of what I’m talking about here isn’t new, isn’t ground-breaking – and certainly isn’t rocket science.
There are, however, key points to be made about the upholding of standards – and the decline seen both in social media and, it has to be said, certain sections of the “mainstream” media. (Incidentally, “mainstream media” is a phrase of which I don’t much care but we’ll leave that for another day).
Several news outlets, including it has to be said places that should know better (that’s you, Daily Telegraph and Press Association) seem to think it now acceptable to pick a myriad selection of rants and ramblings from Twitter and call it “news”.
And then we had last December’s social media outrage (because some people seem to occupy a permanent state of outrage these days) over the cost of UK passports post-Brexit. This, you will know, was fuelled by people in their droves (again, including some who should know better) commenting on – or reposting – something that was ambiguous at best and patently untrue at worst.
As the American diplomat Daniel Patrick Moynihan said: “You are entitled to your opinion. But you are not entitled to your own facts.” Now, there’s one for our social media age.
With the march of fake news (can we just call it “lies); a “mainstream” media devaluing itself in the quest for survival; the aforementioned social media now mired in a collision of unsubstantiated (or ill-researched) “truths” and rants and – it has to be said – some able to think only in black or white and not in a challenging grey middle ground, and you have a situation that’s damaging to integrity, trust and respect.
But the current landscape affords opportunities to raise the game when it comes to a return to basic high standards. Now, we just need to keep reminding others.