The new meaning of privacy

Privacy doesn’t mean private any more.

Private used to mean you didn’t have access to something. We denied you access to certain information.

Think about today, this world for a second. We say we want privacy. Then we hand over all of our information to app makes, to devices, to the world to see in our social feeds.

This occurred to me as I watched the early adopted gush over Amazon’s new Echo speaker/interface, the primary purpose of which is to listen to you and respond when you ask it something… which in turn means that it’s surveilling you ALL THE TIME.


This is a device… connected to a corporation that supposedly people mistrust… listening to every word you say and shipping it back to a server farm in the cloud.

So when we say privacy, we don’t mean actual privacy. We mean something else.

Maybe we mean using the data we give only for what we believe to be its intended purpose.

Maybe we mean simply not misusing our data, or not using our data against us.

Whatever we mean, we don’t mean private in the sense of “I don’t want to give you my data” and we haven’t meant that in some time.

Food for thought as you consider how to integrate the new meaning of privacy into your marketing: the more private you are as a company, the less trustworthy you are. The less private you are as a company about what you do with customers’ data, the more trustworthy you are. Take this into account when you’re talking about privacy as a company or brand!

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Ripe for Disruption

Some food for thought for you, if you’re into politics. If you’re not, feel free to skip this post and come back another day, or go read my “Everything is measurable in PR” article over at SHIFT Communications.

When the major airlines failed to offer anything compelling, companies like AirTran, Southwest, and JetBlue stepped into the mix and disrupted the space.

When Blackberry and Nokia were the dominant choices in phones, Apple stepped in and changed everything.

When telecom companies failed to innovate, Skype started to eat their lunches, until the mobile era started.

In every case where stagnation has become the norm, a startup disrupted the space or a new entrant hit the market and the game changed, usually to the benefit of the consumer.

There’s one space that hasn’t experienced a disruption in quite some time, and is filled with two major failed brands in America: politics. We cynically joke that voting is like choosing which mugger gets to mug you and take your wallet, but underneath that cynicism is a latent wish for another choice.

Given the acerbic, uncivil conditions in politics right now, the space is ripe for disruption. What that disruption is, no one can tell, in the same way that no taxi company foresaw Uber/Lyft. It won’t be more of the same – it won’t be another party inside the same failing system. It’ll be something else that we would have difficulty even imagining…


… you never know. (the above is a reference to Panem, from The Hunger Games)

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In defense of busy

One of the popular memes these days in business press and media is to say how out of vogue “busy” is. You’re not supposed to be busy. It’s not fashionable to say you’re busy. Busy means you planned ahead poorly. Busy means that you’re inefficient, ineffective, or outright unintelligent. Busy means you make poor choices.

Well, the contrarian view I offer is this: busy is part of reality. Try telling a retailer that busy is bad in the run up to the holidays. If you’re very lucky, you’ll be shown the door without a swift boot in the ass to accompany it. Try telling a police officer at a protest that he’s not supposed to be busy, that he should be pacing himself better, that he shouldn’t just react to every little thing. Try telling a CEO of a company whose stock is down 54% that things are actually okay, they just need to prioritize and be more efficient.


Busy is part of reality in the same way that storms and bad weather are a part of reality. It doesn’t storm all the time, but when it does storm, you’d better be ready to deal with it. Now, if it’s storming all the time, that might indeed be a sign that there’s a problem in the environment you work in, but even then, it might be natural for the industry you work in. If you live on or near Mount Waialeale in Hawaii, it rains between 330 and 360 days a year. That’s natural and normal for there.

Yes, it’s okay to be busy. Yes, it’s okay to have fires you need to put out, or chainsaws to juggle, because human beings are a part of nature as well, and that means tides of business ebb and flow. There will be times when you are flat out, all out busy. There are times when you’re going to clock that 12, 14, 16, or 18 hour day. That isn’t a sign that you have failed unless it’s the majority of your time and you don’t want it to be that way. If it’s that way by choice, then carry on.

What matters most about busy isn’t that your business or your work life will get busy, but your reaction to it. The folks I know who are most successful in life simply get down to business, in the same way that the folks who weather storms well accept that the storms will come and batten down the hatches.

Plan ahead, definitely. Be as efficient and as effective as you can be. But if life sends you storms, don’t give into the pop culture meme of believing you’re somehow a failure because you’re busy. You’re weathering the storm, just like the rest of us.

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