His column, "The Whole World is Watching" discusses a new book called "How" by a guy called Dov Seidman, the CEO of a business ethics company. Here's the gist (I'm quoting Friedman here): "Seidman’s simple thesis is that in this transparent world “how” you live your life and “how” you conduct your business matters more than ever, because so many people can now see into what you do and tell so many other people about it on their own without any editor."
In other words, if you screw up--like Dell did with their customer service--it can destroy your business. Friedman continues:
“The persistence of memory in electronic form makes second chances harder to come by,” writes Seidman. “In the information age, life has no chapters or closets; you can leave nothing behind, and you have nowhere to hide your skeletons. Your past is your present.” So the only way to get ahead in life will be by getting your “hows” right.
Ditto in business. Companies that get their hows wrong won’t be able to just hire a P.R. firm to clean up the mess by a taking a couple of reporters to lunch — not when everyone is a reporter and can talk back and be heard globally.
But this also creates opportunities. Today “what” you make is quickly copied and sold by everyone. But “how” you engage your customers, “how” you keep your promises and “how” you collaborate with partners — that’s not so easy to copy, and that is where companies can now really differentiate themselves."That's it. That last paragraph. That's all about the changing role of advertising--about inviting people in, not shoving messages out. That's what agencies and their clients should be discussing.
PS. Friedman is a "Times Select" writer, meaning you can't get him for free online. So pick up a copy of the paper for a dollar.