Straight talking is the new black

At bars, restaurants, the office water cooler, even at a family BBQ, the prevailing topic of conversation this week has been ‘why don’t politicians just say it how it is?’

Admittedly, as a seasoned PR specialist I’m likely to be the target of such questions but there’s a noticeable sense of frustration with the lack of straight-talking.

There’s been such a dramatic swing across the world against politicians’ unswerving resolve to avoid answering questions to stay on message. It will be interesting to see if Australian voters use the Federal election to express their aggravation towards the less candid contenders.

Many candidates have ignored the warning signs and, in an attempt to remain popular, have stubbornly stayed on message, repeating points over and over like a Doctor Who dalek.

‘Staying on message’ during an interview is an age-old communications tactic, used to hammer home a point. It’s effective in certain situations but there’s a fine line between audience engagement and boring people rigid in eight weeks of non-stop electioneering.

Social media delivers news 24/7 and this intensive consumption of news has made audiences smarter, wiser and less tolerant of ambiguity.

Brave new world

Film, video tapes and typewriters have all been superseded over time and so too have certain antiquated communication strategies.

Spin just doesn't have a place among 280 character tweets and 30 second Facebook feeds. Audiences and journalists are clearly exhausted and jaded about wordy ramblings, repetitive messaging and dodging questions.

More than ever, successful communication needs to be:

  • Forthright

  • Honest

  • Clear

  • Concise

  • Timely

It doesn’t mean your approach to communications can’t be strategic.  In fact, careful consideration, research, planning and upskilling are critical to success in this more transparent world.

But why bother? 

Well, I guess investor Warren Buffet put it best:

It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.

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