No, this blog isn’t about Tim Westergren. It’s about the challenge of transitioning to new media, a rather common topic these days, especially among people who work for traditional brands in TV, radio and print.
We tend to think about these adjustments as modern-day problems, but the fact is that the challenge of adoption to new gadgetry and communication tools has been vexing us for decades, if not centuries.
Today’s post is about a movie recently honored by the Golden Globes, The King’s Speech, that takes place back in the 1920’s and 1930’s as radio is emerging as the key conduit that connects world leaders to their constituents.
The film brilliantly tracks the struggles that Prince Albert (who goes on to become King George VI) has in overcoming a terrible stammer that inhibits him from communicating with his subjects over the radio to the then vast British Empire. Played by Colin Firth, Albert seeks out speech therapy help in the person of Geoffrey Rush who plays Lionel Logue. It’s very reminiscent of the Helen Keller/Anne Sullivan relationship as Albert struggles to overcome his problem in a persistent effort to become more comfortable in front of the mic.
But the line in the movie that will stop you cold is uttered by Cosmo Lang, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In an attempt to make poor Albert feel a bit better about taking on the challenge of radio communication, he intones:
“Ah, yes, wireless is indeed a Pandora’s Box.”
Director Tom Hooper recently spoke to MonsterThinking about The King’s Speech, and commented about the challenge in taming the power and perception that is new media:
“With the coming of radio, suddenly the King needed to speak live not only to his nation, but to a vast global audience of 58 countries. The question then becomes: can the king connect emotionally with his people and his empire? I think that’s what it’s really all about: to lead, you need to connect in an emotionally relevant way with the public…What’s interesting now is the infatuation with perception has extended to everyone in America. With the coming of social media, many of us are deploying this kind of ‘second version’ of ourselves through Facebook and Twitter, so this issue of how we broadcast ourselves and publically present ourselves has stopped being a leadership issue to really become a generational issue: how do we broadcast a version of ourselves?”
And in today’s media environment, how many radio and even TV stars struggle to connect with audiences via new social media tools, webcams, and podcasts?
Technology presents exciting opportunities, but it also creates great challenges for traditionalists struggling to hang onto the status quo. The King’s Speech is a vivid reminder that changing with the times isn’t always easy to pull off, but is necessary in connecting with modern audiences.
We are all challenged to keep up with the changes, some of us better than others. But The King’s Speech suggests the effort to connect with new media can bring rewards. And as Hooper so wisely understands, digital tools provide talent and brands with opportunities to show a new, different, and personal side via sites like Facebook and Twitter. But at the same time, it also challenges talent to connect in new ways with communities that have relocated to social media sites.
Great pipes and a tight board will only get you so far in this environment. Today, the demands on talent have been ratcheted up. Are you up to the challenge?