Bartering is Back in Business

There are many negative business influences at the present time. We all know what they are as they are displayed throughout the news outlets day in, day out:

“Poor or no growth”
“Worldwide recession”
“Greece & Spain bankrupt” – wondering who’s next?
“Increased costs & taxation”
“Sales are down overall”
“Reduced public spending capacity”
“Reduced consumer confidence”

And it goes on, quite relentless at times and as suppressive as high humidity and a pending summer thunderstorm. By the way, the above were phrases picked out of one national newspaper at the time of writing!

On this particular subject of media news outlets to the public, I think they have more influence over public confidence than they admit to. Some take the horrible maxim that “bad news sells better than good” to a new height and to an absolute extreme. Don’t believe me then watch Channel 4 News at 7pm of a weekday evening.

The team, who include John Snow who is a world class reporter, are so talented, so skilled and have a huge respect amongst their peers, yet they turn their energy and obvious ability to only picking fault in any news released. It is so frustrating to watch them turn their experience and capability to turning any news story, no matter how good the news starts off being, into negative and picking away at it until the positive news release is no more than an infected, scab less, cankerous sore. They have gone from people of skills to near vultures, circling over the news item until the opportunity appears to descend, casting a looming dark shadow from their mighty wings until their prey is left trapped, life still pulsing in its fragile positivity, but then the hardened beaks poke and then, before the prey knows what is happening first come the puncture wounds, then strips are ripped off, moments before full dismemberment.

All that remains is a bloody twitching mess of a carcass which was once a good news item or the potential of one lost in the misguided gorging of public attention. I can see this is not for the sake of their egos, they are consummate professionals, respected in their field, and yes admired, yet their talents are focused on making good into bad, making positives into negatives, like some bizarre alchemy in front of our very eyes, in full colour and Dolby surround sound, good news becomes bad, depressive and heavy enough to make the toughest heart sink to the very foundations which supports the wide screen plasma TV.

The evidence is clear enough to achieve a conviction in any court of our majestic realm, the media can make or break even the morale and confidence of a nation, so what chance would a company or even a person have against their might? How often have we seen people targeted and have their lives dragged through the filthy sewer of public gaze? Now this splits into two main groups in my mind:

Group 1
People who make their money through publicity, you know these individuals and even groups, the movie stars, the Big Brother imbeciles, the all hype no talent brigade, etc., people who have gone out of their way to promote themselves to the public. They can’t court positive media attention by, for example, selling their wedding picks to ‘Hello’ magazine and then next week complaining about media attention and intrusion. Sorry, doesn’t cut any ice with me. You have to take the rough with the smooth. You want media attention; you got it, whether it’s good, bad or ugly, it’s yours so you stop whining. I have to say that the children of such people should be the exception to this rule, they didn’t ask for the attention, so there should be a law to protect them, regardless of their parents’ antics.

Group 2
Are those that have not courted media attention and are thrown to the wolves by events beyond their control. I can’t imagine how terrifying this must be with your privacy destroyed as simple as a wave rolling over a sandcastle. It must be like the death by a thousand cuts as one’s family is picked apart to drag every juicy morsel into public scrutiny after it has first been skewed to meet the needs of the media outlet. I believe someone once said that the truth is what we tell people it is, and from a media perspective I think this is also their belief. These victims of exposure have to be protected as they don’t have the knowledge or media people on their payroll to fight back. It’s just wrong to attack and destroy them like some helicopter gunship raining down fire on them, their families and friends.

Let’s dispose of the classic media defence about it being the public’s fault as they buy the papers, watch the programmes etc. Well, it’s nonsense. People need news and want to be informed and have a right to have ‘news’ put to them in an honest and balanced way. We have seen through the recent public enquiries that this is not the case, politicians being courted and courting large multi media organisations, to skew the message and make the ‘truth’ what they want it to be. If they can make or break a government then I think they have too much power, and any independence and balance in the media is gone, dead and buried. There is no question that the news is effectively a reflection of the views of the Proprietors and their pets the Editors; with the Editors being given a brief by their bosses and they deliver it, whether sensational, political, corporate, etc., the news is a reflection of the Editor’s influenced choice, the Editor’s personality are showcased, and the news is completely tarnished – perhaps the editors need to be changed, but certainly the law does.

With the constant meteor shower of negativity, creating huge craters in the landscape of public confidence, are we really surprised companies are struggling, and when they do struggle they are jumped all over by the press / media and it’s a short slide into bankruptcy, redundancies and further bad news. The irony of me being negative about the negative media bias hasn’t escaped me.

So in an age of slumping public confidence & spending being rightly cautious, to say the least, the ability for companies to expend money, time and effort in innovation is often equally cautious, and rightly so as every penny counts. The temptation is to cut innovation, cut diversification and cut developments, huddle in one’s own little company bunker and sit out the storm, hoping that a direct hit doesn’t wipe you out. Well I think that in this age of thrift there is an alternative, there is an option companies large and small can explore. My solution is to encourage companies to lower the barriers to other companies, organisations, etc., and offer them support. Yes, this seems like a contradiction, companies are so used to maintaining their walls, making sure that other companies are excluded to a ridiculous degree, and of course I understand why. Every company needs to protect their intellectual property, protect their profits and their customer base, even if they are flagging in this oppressive commercial climate, but bear with me.

By offering support or skills sets to other organisations and saying,

We have these skill sets that we know can help you, will you help us by trading your skills set?

Thus the whole becomes much, much larger than the sum of its parts and the cost is consumed in staff time not direct cash, preserving vital cashflow.

This means companies create alliances, not competitors or enemies. There is a cross fertilisation of skills than can only benefit the companies involved and therefore the consumer, and it is positive rather than negative. Companies supporting each other to get through this economic doldrums can only benefit us all. So bartering skills for skills, help for help, “you help me with my IT problem and I will help you with your social networking”, for example, can only make the global recession a bad memory. The side effect of this mutual support, turning competition into cooperation, gives the media something to write about that isn’t as bleak and pessimistic. Will they take up the mantel of positivity and highlight such good practice? We shall see.

Bartering in this way is not old fashioned, it is forward thinking. Try it, you, your employees and your customers can benefit from the experience with no direct drain on the lifeblood that is cashflow.