Is Captain Sullenberger talking to us?

This is a guest post by Amy Flanagan. Amy blogs at theshortestblogintheworld.

Did you lose your job? Worried you’re next on the chopping block? Or maybe you’re the person at the agency who might have to make the tough decisions. Well, before anyone starts freaking out, perhaps it’s time we all listened to the words of Captain Sullenberger. The more I hear, the more I think he might be talking directly at us.

“We are going in the Hudson.”
It is true. The advertising economy is not on the flight path we hoped it would take. Things are bleak and they might be for a while. But once we accept it, the bleakness no longer matters. It’s how we handle it that counts.

“I had this expectation that my career would be one in which I didn’t crash a plane.”

This was his answer to Katie Couric when she questioned why he was surprised rather than frightened when he realized he was going to have to land the plane in the Hudson. I doubt I’m alone when I say I never dreamed 2009 would find me writing brochures for bovine lactation retrieval systems.* Did of us really think there would be no speed bumps along the way? Sully’s crash landed him in place where he’s inspiring a nation and being honored by Presidents. Where will your crash land you?

“My entire life up to that moment was a preparation for handling that moment.”
Haven’t our lives been a preparation for this moment? Our job is to solve problems creatively. “Sell beef jerky to toothless vegetarians.” We’d have three print ads and a TV board to present within hours. Now it’s time to turn that force of creativity around on own lives. Write the strategy then come up with your creative solution.

“I headed to where the boats were in the water to facilitate rescue.”

In advertising terms this means placing yourself in the best position possible for the next step. Where’s that? Nobody knows. But I’m guessing it has less to do with a 60 second spot with a multi-million audio track and crushed blacks. I’m placing my bets (my time) on technology that creates a more honest, dynamic and relevant interaction between humans.

How do we prepare for this unknown future? My first piece of advice is to get on Twitter. My second piece of advice is to stop rolling your eyes and get on Twitter. There are a lot of smart people to learn from. And they’re giving it all away for ¬free –140 characters at a time. And if you’re not already, dig around on places like Digg and Technorati, too.

Next, learn everything you can about new technologies and then, this is the most important part, experiment with them. You have to engage in technology to learn how to make the most of it. Hold online events, start a blog, comment on others, create discussions, ask questions, partner with a tech pro and create new applications.

“My airplane.”
Finally, embrace those first words Capt. Sully spoke when he realized the situation at hand. Take control. The advertising industry will never be what it once was. It’s going to be what we make it. We get to rewrite the rules and create the media of the future. Brace for impact. We may end up standing in ankle-deep freezing water for a while, but someday I think we’ll all look back on this as the ride of our lives.

*Details changed to protect the innocent. Mostly me.

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