Ever wonder what corporate communications was in 1962? It’s not that different from today.
Just look at the season two finale of Mad Men, the critically acclaimed TV show about Madison Avenue advertising men in the early ‘60s. The show depicts jaw-dropping sexual harassment, workplace drinking and smoking (before noon!) and—yes—even corporate communications.
In this episode, the characters, who work at Sterling Cooper ad agency, endure two anxious weeks where the Cuban missile crisis—the end of world—coincides with the company’s merger with a larger British agency—the end of the employees’ worlds.
Only a select few know about the merger so when management starts auditing every department at Sterling Cooper the rank and file employees grow worried. And when they’re not worrying about their jobs, attention shifts to the imminent threat of nuclear war.
Without solid information about the missile crisis and the merger, fear goes unchecked and anxiety runs rampant. At the time, newspapers, radio and TV covered the missile crisis, but not to the dizzying extent media would today. If the Cuban missile crisis occurred now cable networks would have boats of pundits floating alongside the Russian warships.
The media landscape has changed immensely since 1962; however, at certain organizations internal communications remains largely the same.
Fast forward 40-years to another fictitious ad agency, this one in Joshua Ferris’s darkly humorous novel And Then We Came to the End. The novel details the summer of 2001 at a Chicago ad agency. Dot coms are busting, ad revenue is withering and agencies started firing employees en masse.
As in Mad Men, anxiety reaches a fever pitch thanks to the company’s non-existent internal communications.
Although Mad Men and And Then We Came to the End depict fictitious ad agencies, the story for countless employees remains the same during today’s economic crisis. They are uncertain of their jobs; management isn’t communicating; anxiety starts breeding.
Ragan.com has carried stories about companies communicating well during this financial crisis; unfortunately, there are certainly many more organizations failing to communicate.