What Entrepreneurs Can Take From The Birther Circus

HOLD THE FREAKING PHONE! Word is that President Obama released his REAL birth certificate claiming his American nationality yesterday and he even held a press conference.

And guess what?

People still don’t believe he’s an American. Not only are they still speculating, many have moved on to his ivy league education. Sigh.

You may be wondering what the hell the President of the United States of America, a Stationer and Entrepreneurship have to with each other. Today, I’m sharing my thoughts on this issue, that I’d rather not discuss, but I think holds a great lesson in communication as a greater whole, and also to the many aspiring or already formed business owners, as well as a few large corporations out there that don’t seem to get “it.”

So, yeah, Obama released his real birth certificate on the White House website and held a press conference. Great! But for who? The people who elected him into office, that clearly don’t care? I don’t think so. The people who resent that there is a “black” man running our country? Most definitely.

I would be lying and skirting the issue if I left out the part about racism in this circus act that is known as the birther movement.  All of this disbelief comes from ignorance and a lack of understanding change or black culture in America. However, this is not a topic for this blog, but I want to make sure you readers are aware of  racism being a reality in America.

So how does this relate to existing and budding, new businesses?

In the following ways:

1. Transparency. We live in a society that has come to value transparency. EVERYTHING is transparent. All your gadgets track your whereabouts from both moments that require a bed-waking up and falling asleep.  I’m not talking about privacy theories or anything like that, I’m simply stating a fact. A fact that has become big recently thanks to learning that the iphone stores your location information.  Combine that with the internet and well, you’re so see through, you’re glowing!

The minute you share a tweet, post a photo on your social network,  write a blog, or share a video, you are being transparent. You are letting the world know about you, your likes, your dislikes, and anything else that you choose to share.  Many call this social sharing. Which is fine, but the reality is that some of us over-share. More importantly gone is the era of secrets and cover ups. You mess up and you will be caught.

The White House and President Obama know this better than any other President. Obama’s entire campaign was built on the creation of an online database. He, Michelle and his fellow partners send me emails weekly discussing their thoughts, their determination, their ideas and you know, it creates the idea of knowing the man and being part of a larger network of concerned citizens and Americans. But, there’s always a flip side to all the inclusion and knowledge…the expectation that you, me and everyone else should know EVERY detail of every thing.  Which can lead to a mob lynching if you’re not careful. In these days of the internet, no mob lynching is bigger than the ones you find via reader comments and feedback…

2. Sharing Your Voice + Over Sharing + Transparent Feedback.  The  internet, the glorious area of electronic communication, is not only constant and continuous, but it allows everyone to have a voice. And everyone has a voice. The fact that America is a “democracy” only fuels this belief that we have to and must share our voice. We all in some way want to share our thoughts, or for many find that ticket that is to the mega millions, regardless that few ever will.   Instead, they will find more voices like them to rant and vent and social share. There is nothing constructive about this negative behavior, nor is it conducive to building a stronger and better community of Americans.  I’m not trying to spin this negatively because I have had the pleasure of meeting/knowing people through communities online, but for those that use the internet for darker things, they can find their jackpot.

The birthers have found their dark place. In the same place that all extremists do. Every side has both a good and a bad, but when the lynching mob comes with their media backed outlets and their mama bear and bad hair piece wearing leaders, they are no longer have a dark place, they have an entire platform.

President Obama had to release his birth certificate because even though there are more important things to deal with, the lynching mob was leaving a feedback trail of disrespect, disbelief, injustice, and hurt all across the country.

Feedback is necessary to any business because it allows reflection to a busy owner that might not be able to see all the areas of improvement necessary. However, not all criticism or feedback is constructive. Or necessary for that matter. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard and read about responding to feedback on websites and allowing areas for communication with fans/readers/shoppers/potential clients/anyone who randomly lands on my page, and I agree (I allow for feedback on this blog).  But I also believe that real, honest, and genuine communication doesn’t always happen in public spaces. It happens in one-on-one situations where I can directly gather all the information I need from voice tones, physical body cues, etc.  Which leads to the next lesson…

3. Contact. I don’t necessarily think that President Obama’s initial handling of the questioning was mishandled. I would have handled it in the same manner, but I think by thinking that it would go away without properly viewing it from the opposition’s side showed a disconnect in communication. Or rather a disconnect in approachable communication. You can email everyone in the country until your face is blue, but what about the people who don’t have internet? (I know, completely unfathomable!) What about the people who don’t watch the news? There are people out there that simply choose not to connect via technology. What about them?

This is the same thing for any business. Business owners hear a lot about learning and exploring their target market. Something that is very important in deed, but what if they don’t connect to you the way you’re reaching out to them? How do you fix that? How do you make yourself more approachable? Sometimes, just sometimes, you won’t be able to reach those people. At this point, all you can do is make a decision to either go against or do nothing. Which leads us to the next topic…

3. Making a Decision + Laying You Cards Out.  Being President of the United States of America is no different from being the CEO of a business, regardless of size.  What Corporations got away with in the past such as being able to hide important details about their history and business practices, no longer is acceptable and clearly the same goes for the Presidency.  I am not speaking of say KFC’s secret recipe for fried chicken or Coke’s formula for their cola. I am speaking about whether KFC uses sustainable chicken raising practices or not.  Consumers doubt and lose respect for companies that do not lay out their cards on the table. Companies now have a million and one annual publications ranging from Corporate Social Responsibility to Financial Statements. Why? For the sake of transparency. In 2011, no one wants to be caught like Enron.

Which is why I understand why Obama went the route he did and includes the risk of media…

4. Media. When one group of people force an issue into the limelight and attention is given, the consequences, if not dealt with can be dire.  A recent situation that is brought to mind is the whole lawsuit against taco bell. (I know, right?)  Taco Bell handled the situation well. They never hid from any of the criticism. Using social media tools and traditional media outlets they were able to fight back against the claims of their meat.

Obama held a “breaking news” segment through the media earlier Wednesday to announce that he was sharing this birth certificate and noted how it garnered a lot of press. A ton of press actually. Doing this allowed his news to reach as many outlets as possible. To reach as many of the corners that needed to hear the message.  In 2011, I’m beginning to doubt that the Media understands its role. Again not the topic for this blog, but what I find the most striking is the love/hate relationship with media. If you listen to the first few seconds of Obama’s talk, he criticizes the media. As a matter of fact, the over all tone of that talk is one of a teacher scolding a classroom of students. Even though I’m not a person of the press, or a birther, I felt chastised after watching the clip.

I realize that this blog is a form of media (to an extent) and I realize that by discussing this issue, I am opening myself up to the wider arena of media, but I am also not the President of the United States, nor am I a celebrity.  I know the role I want media to play in my life and in my business.  What this issue has taught me is that anything that is sensational or resembles the lynching mob will be given attention by the media and when they do, they will use it to the max.

In this case, the birthers have been allowed to attack, yell, debate and undermine  Obama’s entire presidency, legitimacy, and authenticity thanks to the media at large. Why? I may never understand, but what I do understand is that I and everyone else who wants to be productive citizens and business owners, need to make sure that our relationship with the media is controlled.

Many people, one in particular,  seem to be taking credit for this document release, when in fact, I see this as President Obama’s way of saying “ENOUGH!” President Obama could have easily kept going down the road of  ignoring the onslaught of conspiracy theories and attacks, but instead he made a decision to go down another road, possibly a higher road.

In President Obama’s announcement yesterday, he noted that conversations and debates are part of a democracy, but that they should be used to discuss issues of great importance.  While I completely agree, I also agree that sometimes you have to bite the bullet, even when it’s something you don’t believe in to move forward. If you don’t, you’ll be left haunted your decisions and choices, or better yet be left in a stagnant period.  Nobody in life ever wants to be stagnant. Those that do are the ones that live with fear, or better yet have settled with their fear(s).

As an individual, it is rare that I believe in buying into things like this–giving attention to a group of people who aren’t worthy of it, but sometimes that is not an option. Sometimes, you have to face the naysayers, attention seekers, the Donald Trumps , doubters and haters and give them what they want.  I’ve experienced this both in my personal and business life. For as stubborn as I am, I’ve realized that  I have to do things I would prefer not to for the sake of moving forward. And in those few times, I always opt for the open, truthful roads because I want to keep my steps moving toward my goal.

As a business owner, it is important to realize that here will always be dissenters and lynch mobs, and if you feed them, or allow them to be fed, they will polarize. There are ways  respect the media that we live with today and be transparent all while using them to our advantage and being successful business owners and leaders. Yesterday, President Obama showed America that he heard what was being said and that he is a leader, one that is willing to face his opposition for the sake of moving forward. That is the kind of business owner I aspire to be as my company continues to grow. I hope it is the same for you.

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s2 stationery & designs

A rule-breaking designer, artist & entrepreneur who's passionate about paper and handcrafting stationery. I also write, travel, and focus on eco + social good.

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