(This article was written for the inaugural edition of Tahrir Square Nation, a new Egyptian magazine created by Tarek Shoeb)
What on earth could a couple of “old hands” from the private sector in the US and UK possibly contribute to the formation of New Egypt?
One of us is from the world of marketing — big brands and their relationship with users in a competitive context. The other is from the world of peace-making — conflicted states and their relationship with citizens.
Between us we see the potential and the threat. New Egypt is a promise. Old Egypt has been partially destroyed, but incumbent forces could put substantial “drag” on the progress forward.
The spirit of freedom has succeeded in partially disabling the old system, but the challenges are greater than any existing system to solve them. These challenges will require New Egypt to invent new systems to address them. That is the journey you are on.
Our key advice is, involve the whole world in your journey.
Don’t let the West tune out of this great drama. Invite countries, brands, people, to witness, to participate, make contributions, to engage. Create involvement. Because it’s going to take the pulling power and creative energies of the world to help New Egypt become a reality. We have listed practical steps at the end of this article.
Remember, man is a small-group animal. We can feel for each other, but we have not developed sufficient capacity for large-scale empathy. Large-scale empathy is only possible through the accumulation of small stories that win our emotional attention.
And you have a lot of competition for attention, and not just in the region. There are three other global dramas playing out. Climate change is a source of deep anxiety. The end of cheap oil is limiting growth and accentuating national interest. The world’s finances are a vulnerability, as we see states start to go bankrupt.
New Egypt is at the centre of the fourth great drama — global social realignment.
Social realignment is aided by technology, both the mass media of television and the connectivity of the internet. Most colleagues in our industry would say technology has had an accelerating factor.
What the streets of Cairo show is that a much more fundamental change has taken place, from people who want their voices heard now, who want change now, who are willing to give up personal life now to pursue this kind of change. This is painful, but enormously charismatic and inspirational. You will succeed to the degree that you can maintain the participation of those who are working with you now, and to the degree you can extend, strengthen, and enhance the coalition for change you’re building.
Here’s what we recommend:
1. Recruit brands. Make a list of the world’s top brands that have self-determination as part of their brand character. For example, in the tech space we would identify both Apple and RIM/Blackberry as standing up for the freedom and security of their users. Make your own list. Write to these brands, ask them how they can become involved. Offer them ideas, but listen to their suggestions.
2. Put together a team of 100 “ambassadors”, your most articulate and engaging representatives. Offer sponsorships to enable them to be hosted to tell the story.
3. Make films…. not just for your own people, but for the extended diaspora. Your target audience is “us” — the part of all of us that is anxious about excessive concentration of power.
4. Get academic “brands” involved. You need premiere brands from the UK and the USA. Approach Stanford University and University of Cambridge looking to build a joint transition culture programme. As mentioned, you are going to invent new systems to deal with new problems. You should have an academic partner to help capture this work and spread the word.
5. Tap into the global leadership and change community. What kind of leadership skills are required for New Egypt to succeed? Who will lead New Egypt? How can you continue to work together, incorporating new allies, with differences, into a common project?
6. Finally, treat New Egypt like a brand. It’s not too early to form a national brand committee. You don’t need to pay for consultants to help. You’ve already got a powerful start – a brand that, in our view, symbolizes energy, positive change, peaceful change, and the importance of the individual. But it’s not about our view: it’s much more about deciding what you want the rest of us to feel about Egypt, living that, and creating engagements like the above to bring this to life.
7. Last, practice radical openness. Let the world in on everything you are going through – don’t package it. Your process will be imperfect, subject to personality disorder, confusion, ignorance, polarization — in other words it will be a very human process! Acknowledge the imperfections, acknowledge that this is an invention – a new way of doing – open up the discussion, commit to a way ahead that engages the positive energies of the world.
Dana and I look forward to hearing more, and if there’s a way we can help, we will.
Bell Pottinger Special Projects and Bell Pottinger Sans Frontières focus on strategic communications for conflict transformation. Their clients are entities, industry sectors, governments and societies.
(This article was written for the inaugural edition of Tahrir Square Nation, a new Egyptian magazine created by Tarek Shoeb) What on earth could a couple of “old hands” from the private sector in the US and UK possibly contribute to the formation of New Egypt? One of us is from the world of marketing [...]
Former CMO, KPMG. Former Managing Partner Ogilvy and Mather. Global Client Leader WPP