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Truth Department

June 30th, 2010

One of my friends in college was a philosophy major.

During our senior year Jamie was accepted into a Master’s program at an Ivy League school to study yes, more philosophy. People – students, friends of his parents and career counselors – frequently asked him what he planned to do with his degrees when he “got out.”

Ever the humorist, Jamie would reply that he planned to work in the Truth Department of a major corporation. He always got a laugh.

Jamie’s response, like the jokes about liberal arts majors who become coffee baristas or learn to ask “Do you want fries with that?” was his way of acknowledging that studying great thinkers like Kant and Hegel probably wasn’t a career track to corporate success.

Lately, though, Jamie’s quip has come to my mind more than once.  All companies can face crises, from a gap in customer service that affects a few buyers or a major misstep with global consequences. When companies find themselves in crisis and attempt to keep control with a traditional “one voice” approach, the public reaction is often to question their credibility and integrity.  Regardless of our preferences, social media has transformed our branding and messages from one-way, one-voice control  to an open-ended, multi-voice process of listening, commenting and opinion sharing.   

Jamie never imagined the rise of social media when he responded to the question of what he planned to do when he got out. But there’s a kernel of truth in his reply.  Social media does require us all – from large corporations to small companies and individuals – to interact with credibility and integrity when we “get out” into multi-voice social communities to listen, blog, post, comment or tweet. That’s the “Truth Department” we all carry around inside us.