The not-so-hidden brand message behind Don’t search

New Netflix Movie Do not seek receives all kinds of criticism, many of which relate to the film’s not-so-hidden messages about climate action. Do not seek serves a much broader purpose as well, as an introduction to communication in the age of media clutter. In this regard, it should be on the list of “suggested tours” for in-company training on brand reputation and social responsibility.

Do not seek is more than a climate crisis message

Do not seek begins with a scientist literally doing the opposite. She looks into the cosmos through a powerful telescope and discovers a new comet, which is big enough to destroy Earth. Upon closer examination, it heads straight for Earth, there’s no doubt about it.

Since the title of the movie is Do not seek, but the protagonist does the opposite, this opening sequence prepares the audience for an intro on how to communicate what you see with your own eyes, when your company is overwhelmed with non-factual information.

Many critics have made the link between Do not seek and climate action, but that misses the point. In terms of communication, the film’s central message is about the social dissemination of non-facts, a problem which also applies to the Covid-19 pandemic and the “Big lie” on electoral fraud in the 2020 presidential election.

Life imitates art in Do not seek

The A-List cast of Do not seek includes Jennifer Lawrence, Leonardo DiCaprio, Tyler Perry, Meryl Streep and Timothéand Chalamet. They carry the film with a good clip, but many critics have complained that the overall message is too heavy.

In this regard, it may help to know that DiCaprio plays two roles. He appears on screen as half of the heroic science duo desperately trying to get the government to take swift and effective action. DiCaprio also lends his real-life story to one of the film’s main villains, fictional tech mogul Peter Isherwell.

Isherwell represents the Tech Hero Money Genius, an agglomeration of characteristics that encompasses Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates. Like the “pixie manic dream girl” character, a Tech Hero Money Genius has no inner life. Instead, they exist to meet the needs of others. In return, they receive an almost unimaginable degree of power and the money that goes with it.

Isherwell isn’t all DiCaprio, of course. Isherwell wields his financial power in communications, whereas in real life DiCaprio is a leading climate activist. He has used his star power to draw attention to the climate crisis in a variety of ways, from speaking at the United Nations to participating in protest marches and sponsor a racing team in the Formula E electric vehicle racing circuit.

The Isherwood connection is in the financial realm. In recent years, DiCaprio has invested in various areas with a focus on sustainable food as well as manufactured diamonds. He is also godfather of the fossil-free financial services company Aspiration with investors such as Orlando Bloom and Robert Downey, Aspiration Jr. has seen its growth skyrocket since its launch in 2015.

The message on this point is subtle but sharp. Corporate leadership could make a difference, but only if it’s not misguided by ego and self-interest.

A communication lesson for business leaders

Negative opinions aside, Do not seek brings together a clever and entertaining roster of characters who illustrate many barriers to fact-based communication.

On the science side, the film shows how researchers who get their hands right on data can be hampered by youth, inexperience, personal anxieties, and a singular focus on detail at the expense of clarity.

Nonetheless, all of these obstacles can be overcome if people on the other side pay attention to them. As expressed by Do not seek, the most critical failure is on the part of the voting public.

The film portrays an audience obsessed with interpersonal communication through Isherwell’s fictitious “BASH” network, as citizens fail to grasp the role that basic skills play in sustaining a modern democracy.

The result is disaster. The film highlights the role of jaded and complacent media, but it’s a secondary note to the common thread. The centerpiece of the film is Meryl Streep’s exaggerated portrayal of a self-centered and incompetent president who assigns equally incompetent and self-centered people to head critical tasks and agencies, like placing an anesthesiologist at the head of NASA. . In contrast, the staff who craft the president’s lavishly staged public statements are obviously at their peak.

Brand reputation and voter education

Electing incompetent leaders is nothing new in a democracy. In the United States, the debacle of a term as President Trump is the culmination of a generation-to-generation message on voter education that revolves around with whom to drink a beer, instead of one who has the experience and the temperament to run powerful offices in a diverse industrial economy.

Many business leaders have started to build their brand reputation by trying to get the vote. It is all well and good, but the damage has already been done. Local, state and federal offices are already saturated with elected officials who hamper climate action, violate the base COVID-19 Prevention Guidelines and promote lies about electoral fraud – and this is in addition to those who support armed insurrection and promote religion over science in the area of ​​women’s reproductive health.

It’s going to be an uphill battle to beat, but business leaders who are truly serious about eliminating communications clutter need to focus like a laser on voter education.

How to cut through media clutter

A good place to start would be to take a page from the United States Disease Control Centers (CDC).

In 2016, the CDC published a report on the “Tips from Former Smokers” media campaign. “Tips” was launched in 2012 as the first federally funded anti-smoking media campaign. In 2016, the campaign helped 400,000 smokers to quit smoking for good. That number has since grown to around 1 million.

CCD relaunched the campaign last March. He offers clear advice on effective messaging through a number of problems.

“Research shows that emotionally evocative, evidence-based campaigns like Tips, are effective in raising awareness of the dangers of smoking and helping smokers quit, ”says the CDC. “These campaigns are even more effective when paired with quit smoking helplines, which provide free and confidential support services to help people quit smoking. “

Applied to voter education, the lesson for business leaders is clear. Like it or not, an effective voter education effort must be bipartisan.

Business leaders who are truly serious about climate action, COVID-19 prevention, and voter suppression need to send powerful and emotional messages about the damage and potential harm, and those messages need to deliver. to voters specific action measures that prevent damage – namely, to vote for candidates capable of preserving the founding values ​​of a modern democracy.

Image credit: Matese Fields via Unsplash


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