For any organization, the underlying amounts of communication will determine the culture of the firm and the attitudes that are embraced. This is taking place through the levels of effectiveness influencing the thinking of employees, customers and other stakeholders. In some cases, these areas can lead to positive changes. This is because these strategies enable individuals to feel as if they are a part of something greater than themselves. When this happens, they are willing to do more for the organization and challenge the status quo. (“Create Effective Relationships through Effective and Open Communication,” 2013)
However, in some situations, this can have negative impacts on the organization, what they represent and the attitudes embrace by everyone associated with it. This is problematic, as radical elements, based upon ideology or religion will see their actions as disrespectful. This is the point, they will lash out at those who they feel are responsible for them. (“Create Effective Relationships through Effective and Open Communication,” 2013)
Therefore, the most important aspect of any organizational campaign is the way it can communicate with stakeholders about their ideas. Depending upon the strategy and approach, there could be vast differences. When this happens, the culture will shift to reflect these beliefs. In the long term, this will have an impact on the image of the firm and its ability to connect with stakeholders. (“Create Effective Relationships through Effective and Open Communication,” 2013)
In the case of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, it challenges the status quo. This is because they are above politics and theology by poking fun at numerous symbols and people. The result, is that the organization was the target of terrorist related attacks and threats from radical groups. In the last four years, there have been two separate attacks from Al Qaeda. This is response to questionable images they posted of the prophet Mohamed. (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Recently, Al Qaeda’s Yemen affiliate stormed their offices in Paris and killed 12 people. Their next issue, challenged the status quo by posting more images of Mohamed with the caption “I am Charlie Hebdo.” This is designed to send a message to the terrorists that the magazine and its staff members will not be intimidated by anyone. (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015) To fully understand the campaign that was utilized, requires comparing the six elements of the SUCCESS model in the book Made to Stick. Together, these factors will illustrate the overall scope of how they define the organization and the tactics they use to connect with their readers.
The SUCCESS Model and Charlie Hebdo
The attack on January 7, 2015; was designed to punish Charlie Hebdo for continually posting images of the Muslim prophet Mohamed. These controversies date back to 2006. This is when they first began publishing cartoons that featured him in compromising positions. The basic idea is to make fun of how much the Muslims emphasize Mohamed’s importance by mocking him. Under Islamic theology, depicting any images of him is considered to be blasphemy. The fact that Charlie Hebbo is doing this, is designed to underscore how no one is larger than life. (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
One week after the attack, the magazine ran another image of Mohamed (in defiance to Al Qaeda). The headline of “I am Charlie,” is underscoring their commitment to freedom of speech and the press by poking fun at various political, popular and religious figures / symbols. (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015) The SUCCESS model is showing how this service campaign is in support these ideals. It emphasizes a number of areas that are utilized in conjunction with each other. The most notable include: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. These elements are highlighting how the organization defines its message and the attitudes it takes in light of recent events.
Simplicity is when there is an emphasis on creating something that is easy to remember and profound. This means that the message must be clear, to the point and contentious. In this case, Charlie Hebdo has a history of embracing these attributes by constantly making fun of public officials, celebrities and religious figures / symbols. The basic idea is to increase their readership through having a lighthearted approach. This is how everyone will remember the topic and images they see in the magazine. Over the years, the organization has been continually doing this by showing the prophet Mohamed in controversial images. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Unexpectedness, is the way an organization will capture and maintain the attention of their audience. Charlie Hebdo is able to do this by showing controversial and racy cartoons of topics that are drawing tremendous amounts of interest. The recent Mohamed cartoon, is a classic example of this by publishing images which are in direct violation of the tenants of Islam. This captures and sustains everyone’s attention, through engaging in practices which are seen as taboo. Over the years, the magazine has gained its reputation by engaging in these tactics. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Concreteness is explaining key ideas in human terms. The basic idea is to create an emotional connection with the audience by showing how they share the same beliefs. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, they are exercising their right to freedom of speech. This means that they can criticize anything and poke fun at it. The French value these ideals, as something that is close to their national identity going back to the French Revolution. The recent issues with the prophet Mohamed is the classic example of this, through showing how they have the right to post images of him in their magazine. At the same time, it is saying how they will not be intimated by cowards and extremists who do not like what they say or its cartoons. This can be seen with the phrase “I am Charlie Hebdo” above the Mohamed cartoon. In this aspect, it is clear that they are defending their right to print any cartoons regardless of what others think. This is protecting their rights to freedom of speech and the press by taking an attitude of defiance against the attacks through its publication. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Credibility is established by asking critical questions. This occurs either directly or indirectly based upon the actions and attitudes taken by the organization. Charlie Hebdo is doing this indirectly through the cartoons they show of different celebrities, religious and public figures. This is used to demonstrate how they are questioning certain positions and practices. The recent terrorist attack, further underscored this by showing how the magazine is a threat to them. The fact that they continued with their actions (in the latest publication) is illustrating how they have a certain amount of credibility by making Muslim look out of touch and backward. The result is that the current issue was able to sell out and required additional printings. This is because these views are shared by the majority of Frenchman. In support of them, they are buying the magazine to show these attitudes. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Emotions are looking at how people feel about certain ideas. This is designed to draw a deeper connection with them by showing that they agree with key concepts. In the case of Charlie Hebdo, they are generating support and anger with their images of Mohamed. This is because most French citizens are angry about the way Al Qaeda attacked their offices from exercising their rights to freedom of speech and the press. Yet, at the same time, it is creating tremendous amounts of anger in Muslims, who believe that this is an insult. As a result, their circulation is increasing from embracing these attitudes. However, it is also fueling protests in Islamic countries, by creating feelings of disrespect towards their religion and everything it stands for. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
The stories are focusing on the human element of different events. Charlie Hebdo, is using this to show how they are ordinary people, who had their lives changed by a brutal terrorist attack. This occurred with the interviews and press coverage of what happened afterward. At the same time, public officials denouncing the terrorists attacks and the solidarity march are building upon these perceptions. These stories helped to build a connection the public has with the magazine. The result is that their circulation increased after the attack. This is demonstrating the effects these stories and their impact on the public’s mindset. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Clearly, there are similarities in all service campaigns. This taking place based upon specific ethnic groups and nationalities embracing different attributes. The key is being able to incorporate select ideas with the basic communication strategy. This can be achieved by using select images, words and phrases at certain times. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
While at the same time, there is an emphasis on doing something that is provocative. This is achieved through showing how these ideas are challenging conventional thinking. In the future, this enables them to more effectively connect with stakeholders. It is at this point, when these ideas will become more of a strategy that is dealing with the differences in communication strategies to have an impact on stakeholders. Over the long term, these ideas will become a basic part of the philosophy that is embraced by their target audience. This is taking place through illustrating their importance to everybody and using them as a part of the organization’s basic communication strategy. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
In the case of case of Charlie Hebdo, it is doing this through making satirist images and comments about some of the most controversial topics, ideas and individuals. The main strategy is to show a different perspective about what they stand for and to mock them. The recent terrorist attack on their offices has deep connection with proponents and detractors. This is occurring through them depicting the prophet Mohamed in various cartoons. Over the years, the Muslims have become angry, as they feel he is larger than life. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
Charlie Hebdo wants to challenge these views, by showing how Mohamed is an ordinary man. This goes against their beliefs by depicting any kind of images of him. They feel that this is a direct challenge to their right to criticize public officials and symbols. As a form of resistance, they will print these images to stir various responses in those who are supporters and opponents. The way they are able to do this is to utilize the elements of simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions and stories. In their latest issue, they are embracing these elements by demonstrating how they will not be intimidated by terrorists. Instead, they will continue to exercise their rights to freedom of speech and the press through engaging in controversial activities. The result, is that they have a deep connection with those who are supporters and detractors. In many ways, one can argue that the intent of the magazine is to create controversy. This is accomplished through the images and cartoons it shows. (Heath, 2007) (“Charlie Hebdo,” 2015)
- Charlie Hebdo. (2015). BBC. Retrieved from: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe- 30708237
- Heath, C. (2007). Made to Stick. New York, NY: Random House.