So, how do we begin building the F-650? Well, as you can probably imagine, there are many, many components required, both mechanical and technological. The F-650 is a powerful vehicle, and it's pretty overwhelming to figure out how to transform a travel trailer into one of these monsters. It's no wonder why it hasn't been done before. However, if you focus on one piece at a time, the upgrading process is much more palatable.
One piece that I believe is of utmost importance to the labor movement is that of public relations/marketing/advertising/communications - however you want to categorize it. It is the most ignored, overlooked, underfunded and/or ill-conceived yet fundamental element within the labor framework. The labor movement is by and large made up of those in skilled trades - not media experts and public relations consultants - so it's no surprise that this is an area of need. Labor needs to figure out how to fulfill it - and fast.
This is not to say that advancements haven't been made in this respect. There are very positive examples here and there of labor organizations and individuals that are starting to get it. It's time that labor organizations, from internationals to locals and everyone in between, start constructing well written, organized and purposeful strategic communication/public relations plans that address not only our members, but the general public as well. If we don't take measured steps to proactively control our image and brand awareness by focusing on brand strategy development, then the Tea Parties, Glenn Becks and Sarah Palins of the world certainly will - as they already have.
Hold on one second - brand strategy development? What the *@$#? This is not a phrase commonly heard at the hall over coffee among the retirees, at the monthly union meetings, or in apprentice classes. If it is discussed, it's probably limited to the upper echelon of the AFL-CIO and the Internationals, who desperately need to develop and provide educational resources that can arm their locals with an arsenal of branding tools that impart a consistent message throughout the country. Examples include: Instruction on how to develop and implement a communication/marketing plan; the importance of having an online presence that provides value through a quality website and social media profiles; how to significantly improve internal communications so that members become more invested in their local's efforts. However, in order to provide these types of resources and guidance, the upper echelon needs to figure it out for themselves first.
In private industry circles, particularly those with names that end in Inc. or Corp., a "brand" is not simply a product name. It's an intangible impression of thoughts and feelings about your organization that can be indelibly left on a person.
"Whatever your business, your brand is who you are, what you do, and how you build relationships with customers, prospects and influencers. Your brand is how you motivate your people. Your brand is how you fulfill the promise of your company and its products. Your brand is how you define customer experiences, make them memorable, and build brand value." (The Latham Guide, Latham and Company, LLC)Further, your brand has significant power over your ability to shape your organization and its future - or lack thereof. Organizations of all types spend large sums of money every year to develop, improve and protect their brands - organizations that in some cases are much smaller, have much less at stake, or provide significantly less value to society. Consider this: Kentucky Fried Chicken spent millions to "rebrand" their image to become KFC. Which has more societal impact? Fried chicken or labor unions? If we based our answer on public relations budgets, the Colonel would win, hands down.
You're probably thinking that labor doesn't have the kind of money that a re-branding campaign would require. Remind me again how much the AFL-CIO spent on election campaigns this go-around with very little to show for it? Over $200 million? Is it really cost effective to use union dues in the 11th hour for an election that most people felt was a waste of time anyway? Perhaps if the international unions and the AFL-CIO had dedicated a chunk of change towards waging an intensive re-branding/marketing/communications campaign years ago, aimed at the general public and designed to introduce the 21st Century Labor Movement to the masses, it would have made life a little easier come election time.
Bottom line: Perception is everything, whether it's true or not. The public's perception of Labor needs to change, but this will never happen unless labor organizations realize how vital public relations efforts are today for the existence of our unions tomorrow.