Fuck the babies
My adventure at the Communication Office of the Municipality of Porto Alegre taught me two things.
The first was that communicating to the public sector, above all, has to do with doing a lot with very little. This means that sooner or later you're going to have to ask for some favors and collect others. When you are not a career public employee and you come from the market, this can become a little easier considering that your network on the industry tends to be wider. But passing the hat is as much a part of a government communications department's routine as creating headlines or layout ads.
The second one is that, perhaps in fewer places, there is such a clear boundary between what is publicity and what is propaganda. Let's not be naive: of course that everything we communicate comes together to form the political capital of an administration, which will guarantee the maintenance of a party in the chambers, and this is part of the first concept; But very quickly you realize that there are issues of Government and there are issues of State, which are above them because they deal with universal and non-negotiable values. It's a very clear boundary. Or maybe not so much, for some people.
A couple of years ago, an urgent briefing arrived at the office. The stock of the Breast Milk Bank at the main municipal children's hospital was close to zero. If it wasn't replaced immediately, by the end of that week about fifty babies would be unable to feed properly. This would require creativity and agility from us to create a campaign that encouraged the donation of milk in large quantities.
Copy on the left: This is Olivia. She doesn't know what a breast milk bank is. But she knows when is time to breastfeed. Donate breast milk. Copy on the right: It's not a coincidence that your breast is so close to your heart. Donate breast milk.
We worked fast and some paths emerged. They were all pretty good, and we decided to use them all, as there was no danger of the messages overlapping and overriding each other. We adapted the ideas for use on the City Hall's social networks - the first channel we always use because there are no costs involved - but we were convinced that a campaign based on posters in loco in hospitals would work better, given the immediacy with which it could impact potential donors, enhancing our call to action due to the physical proximity to the Milk Bank. However, as always, we had no resources for printing the posters. At least not without the whole thing moving through City Hall's bureaucratic labyrinth. We were in a hurry. Babies were in a hurry. It was time to pass the hat.
I called the owner of a printing company who owed me some favors and explained the situation. He listened carefully and at the end told me that it would cost him practically nothing to print the posters but he wouldn't do it because he was an opponent of the Mayor. I talked about the importance of the campaign but he stood his point: he wouldn't lift a straw to do anything that could benefit the Mayor.
- Man, this is not about the Mayor. This is about the babies.
- Fuck the babies.
And it was right there that I realized that, as impossible as it may seem, ideologies had infected us in such a way that maybe publicity no longer exists, only propaganda. A toxic propaganda that not only polarizes everything, but dehumanizes everyone.