Authenticity for the UK

About the author

Kevin is a co-founder of PR Academy and editor/co-author of Exploring Internal Communication published by Routledge. Kevin leads the CIPR Internal Communication Diploma course. PhD, MBA, BA Hons, PGCE, FCIPR, CMgr, MCMI.

In the wake of the recent European election results it feels like there is some anarchy in the UK at the moment.

As the analysis of Ukip’s rise continues, it looks like authenticity played a part in the voting. A lot of people are saying ‘Ukip talk straight’. Many voters seem to like Nigel Farage’s boozy bolshiness. This contrasts with views of other ‘career’ politicians who talk a lot but say nothing.

We know from the Edelman Trust Barometer for 2014 that trust in CEOs has flat lined whereas trust in employees increased from 47% in 2009 to 62% in 2014. The advice given to CEOs is to communicate clearly and transparently, to tell the truth regardless of how complex or unpopular it is and to engage with employees regularly. All things that people who like Nigel Farage says he does more than other political leaders.

I am not a Ukip supporter and time will tell as to whether Farage is really telling the truth or whether he turns out to be another politician who speaks with forked tongue. However, the lesson for business and political leaders is that voters (and employees) are fed up with corporate sounding communication. If there is a positive outcome from the election, it is that the tide of turgid communication may be turning.

However, some communication development is often required for leaders. Kent Police Commissioner, Ann Barnes, may now be reflecting on her communication style as shown in the Channel 4 ‘Meet the Commissioner’ programme. It was revealed that she did not know her onion-rings, when she failed to explain a concentric circle model of strategy that looked, well just like a concentric circle of rings.

Reviews claim that the Commissioner has been rebuked by rank-and-file officers for making their force a ‘laughing stock’ and she was accused of damaging the reputation of Kent Police. Clearly, she had the right intentions about being transparent and trying to engage with people. However, you can’t blame the documentary makers for highlighting David Brent like examples of excruciating speeches.

This is an example of where communication support and training could have made a real difference to the outcome, not support to ‘polish’ speeches into corporate jargon but to connect with people on a rational and emotional level that encourages genuine dialogue. Transparency, truthfulness and incoherent (or embarrassing) communication is likely to lead to confusion, employee disengagement and media mockery.

Authenticity for the UK

It’s coming sometime…

[With apologies to Johnny Rotten]