Excerpt from The Credible Spokesperson
Why I Wrote This Book
This is an honest book about how to spin your message honestly. In a world were every utterance can so very quickly be broadcast worldwide through Twitter, Facebook and You Tube, the need to communicate authentically has never been more important. Old public relations tools that controlled what people see, read or hear are out the window. Each individual must take charge of their own credibility. Here’s how Pamela Meyers, author of How to Spot a Liar put it speaking at a TED talk in Edinburgh Scotland in 2011.
“Today we have so little darkness: our world is lit up 24 hours a day. Its transparent with blogs and social networks broadcasting the buzz of a whole new generation of people who have made a choice to live their life in a much more public world in a much more noisy world. So one challenge we have is over sharing – that’s not honesty. Our manic tweeting and texting can blind us to the fact that the subtleties of human decency, character and integrity is still what matters and is always going to matter. So in this much noisier world it might make sense for us to be just a little but more explicit about our moral code and signal it to everyone around you that “in my world is going to be one where truth is strengthened and falsehood is recognized and marginalized. When you do that the ground around you is going to shift just a little bit…and that’s the truth.”
I think Pamela nails it here. More than ever we all need to be thinking about and behaving in a way that builds trust and maintains our credibility and strengthens truth and recognizes falsehood. For companies and governments it’s just as important. Their behaviours and the spokespeople that express their moral code are more central now to the credibility of their reputations than ever. Just as a serious misstep can undermine all corporate goodwill instantly, a good spokesperson can build trust in meetings with stakeholders and in interviews with the news media if they know how.
I come at this from a perspective formed by hundreds and hundreds conversations with people in my coaching seminars. They tell me, almost to a person, that their engagement in the process of going public and of having to speak publicly is often one of terror about the way in which they feel their words will be misrepresented or distorted by individuals with an ax to grind or reporters assigned to finding a dissenting viewpoint, no matter where it comes from.
They have little difficulty understanding the news media is a business; that tension and conflict are essential to good story telling. They get the idea that the more tension in the story the more it sells. They get that a reporter’s job is to write something people are actually going to read. And they recognize that reporters are forever wary of the spin coming at them by all those trying to seek free publicity for their messages. But this also means to them that every engagement with the news media conspires against every spokesperson because it’s not their story that will be told but the story of the tension, the conflict, the dissenting point of view that must be there and often finds it’s way above the fold because it generates a more interesting story.
I loved what American comedian and TV host Jon Stewart said about the news media recently at was called the ‘rally for sanity’ held in Washington a few days before the 2010 congressional elections in the US where the Tea Party made such big inroads. He said its like a bright sun focusing its light through an absurdly large magnifying glass on an anthill. Some of the ants catch on fire resulting in weeklong media frenzy on about the strange phenomena of burning ants. It’s hilarious but sadly true.
These are the realities that shape the world in which I work as a coach. My brand is “The Credible Spokesperson” and the world I’ve just described is the one that shapes people’s perception of the media world and their engagement in it. They feel the odds are often severely stacked against them. In fact, many tell me they do their best to avoid any media exposure because they’re sure that whatever they say will somehow be worked against them and they’ll get into trouble with their bosses, colleagues, partners, friends or family. To many the challenge seems huge. They dread it because they don’t trust it. That’s what I want to address. That’s why I’ve written the Credible Spokesperson. And that’s why I provide coaching seminars wherever my kind clients take me.