Happy Days Are Here Again—Maybe

AP reported on Dec. 21 that the U.S. economy is ending the year “on a roll.” Consumer spending is up, and employers have added at least 100,000 jobs five months in a row, which hasn’t happened since 2006.

Let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that the economy stays on a roll through the first quarter of 2012. Employers keep hiring, consumers keep buying and housing prices start to make a recovery. This scenario would lead to a cultural shift—anger from the so-called 99% would abate, political pundits would lose some of their bite and a new optimism would emerge.

We’ve lived in a kind of darkness for so long: For some it began in fall 2008, for others with the invasion of Iraq and for some the starting point was 9/11. A sustained period of economic growth would be a shock to the system, and for communicators that means they would be dealing with a different culture entirely. Engagement with a public that has real hope for a better future would demand different sorts of messages—those that transmit optimism instead of caution and commiseration.

It’s a subtle thing, this change in cultural tone, but we’ve all lived through it. Many of us can recall the rabid enthusiasm of the dot-com era. That was a different world, but it was really not so long ago.

In 2012, let’s imagine—and prepare for—an economy and culture that truly is on a roll.

—Steve Goldstein