It’s party conference season again and this week was the turn of the Marmite Labour leader to take to the stage and rally the party faithful. Whether you love him or hate him, his undeniable ability to enthuse Corbynistas (think chants of ‘Ooh Jeremy Corbyn!’) has left rivals, both within and outside his party, mesmerised, gobsmacked and perhaps a little green.
How does he do it?
The reason, we would argue, boils down to authenticity. There is a general perception that Corbyn is different in being ready to stand up for what he believes in, however ‘unpopular’ it may seem. Reinforced by his unkempt hair and oversized jackets, the impression is that, with Corbyn, what you see is what you get and, in that respect, he marks a break from the New (now Old) Labour obsession with image and spin.
For years, politicians (and brands) have communicated through carefully controlled messages and relentless repetition (think strong and stable leadership) and perhaps there was a time when this worked.
What’s clear now is that this is not enough. People want answers not just to the ‘what’ questions (what you do, what you’ve done, what you’re going to do) but also the ‘who’. They expect to hear the real ‘you’ talking, not just a ‘veneer’.
Social media in particular has created the opportunity for the faces behind companies, organisations or political parties to speak directly to the masses, and this has brought with it an expectation that leaders will be accessible as well as accountable.
In a way, that’s nothing new. It’s never gone down well when leaders shy away from the TV cameras, but as the opportunities for visibility increase, so do the expectations.
From the other side, the implications are different. Maintaining a consistent message across multiple platforms is so much easier if it’s true and you don’t have to think so hard about it – in other words if it’s authentic.
What is the key to authenticity?
Most marketers begin with the question ‘who is the target audience?’ and the necessary desire to really understand those they seek to influence.
Before this though, or at least alongside it, there is another, equally important question leaders and brands need to ask themselves and that is ‘who am I?”
It might seem existential but self-awareness is fundamental to the business of communicating.
Investing time in really being clear on the values you believe in and stand for creates the opportunity for authentic engagement.
So why are organisations reluctant to do it? What’s the risk? Perhaps it’s the fear of rejection and it’s true that it might turn some people off, but they’re probably not the ones you would have won over anyway. Often the desire to appeal to the masses leaves messages so generic that they reach no one.
Or perhaps they’ve simply not taken the time to really think about it. Often the simplest questions are the hardest to answer.
Investing time in establishing clarity on the fundamental question of who you are is however time well spent. It’s the basis of confident brands, meaningful conversations and powerful campaigns. It will inform everything you do.
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