The sad countdown has finally come to an end. Jon Stewart’s tenure at the helm of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show has wrapped up after 16 glorious years. When I moved to the US with my family in 2011, The Daily Show was one of the only TV shows that I watched regularly, and I continued to watch it religiously every week until it ended earlier this month. Its irreverent style and ability to poke good-natured jabs at all manner of authors, politicians, actors and comedians in the public spotlight was always informative, entertaining and thought provoking.
What I appreciated most about Jon Stewart, the writers and the entire cast of the show was that anyone and any subject was fair game. There were no issues that were taboo, no sacred cows, nothing that got swept under the carpet. I’ll admit to being a bit of an idealist, but I genuinely felt that the show’s voice spurred valuable public discourse that remains a powerful catalyst for positive change. I knew that the show was popular, but until the past couple of weeks I had no idea what a phenomenon The Daily Show team had created.
During the final show, Stephen Colbert (soon to take David Letterman’s slot as host of the Late Show in September), went off script. “We owe you (thanks) because we learned from you. We learned from you by example how to do a show with intention. How to work with clarity. How to treat people with respect. You are infuriatingly good at your job. All of us who were lucky enough to work with you for 16 years are better at our jobs because we got to watch you do yours. And we are better people for having known you.”
So what has Jon Stewart taught me about the profession of public relations? It all boils down to spin. For every journalist there are probably at least 10 public relations professionals, all fighting to grab the attention of the media with their ‘next big thing’ – the best, the fastest, the most… ‘something,’ We can’t all be the biggest or loudest, but we can certainly have our own unique perspective and insight. Going back to what Stephen Colbert said, I feel that one of the best ways to achieve success for our clients’ brands is to work with intention, being laser-focused on their needs and understanding the audience. Then we need clarity in our communications so that we can cut through marketing-speak and share the best that our clients have to offer in language that isn’t tangled and confusing. If we concentrate on achieving that, and making it a part of our culture, then everyone benefits. At Voxus PR I’ve met my fair share of people who are infuriatingly good at their jobs, and that helps make me better at my job.
For a man of meager stature, Mr. Stewart has left some enormous shoes to fill. I, for one, can’t wait to see what new lessons we can learn from Trevor Noah.