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Reasons to believe

  • Published at 03:38 pm March 3rd, 2020

You can’t fake authenticity when it comes to communicating

When it comes down to things personal, there are usually motivations or triggers of self-fulfillment first -- a something in it for us. Whether it is love, attraction, or interest -- be it a person, thing, abstraction or idea, the first trigger is very, very personal. 

How does this person, thing, abstraction or idea make us feel on a deeper level? Or, for the more narcissistic among us, how does this person, thing, abstraction or idea define our public persona? 

The caveat being, the public persona needs to be qualified as a direct result of how the person, thing, abstraction or idea is perceived by others. The latter being more a case of "I like because I think you like". Technically, there are no wrong personal motivations.

However, when it comes to matters of a more non-personal nature, people are generally more discerning. They tend to herd -- usually because in the absence of any personal motivations or triggers of self-fulfillment, most do not give it much thought. 

Given no personal motivations, and in the absence of any real personal opinion, we tend to adopt the wider accepted view going around. It's easier to echo what others are already saying because we don't care enough to decide on what to think ourselves.

When it comes to professional communication, it is therefore almost imperative that a trigger on why people should care needs to be an intrinsic part of the message. 

It's hard enough that a) the act of communication looks reasonably straightforward, b) a simple word could be cause for a misunderstanding or misinterpretation, but, now, c) to also have to incorporate a trigger for the audience to make them care, takes the cake. 

Simple is not necessarily easy when communicating with people who do not have a valid reason to believe. Or worse, under the influence of the herd, convinced that there might be reasons not to believe.

Generally, small businesses are trusted more than big companies; one rarely has personal motivation or trigger of self-fulfillment with large companies. Paradoxically, there may be pronounced feelings of resentment if there is a broader, albeit maybe unqualified, perception of some wrong perpetrated by the big company.

Naturally, big corporations, by virtue of size and reach, have a greater number of people with first-hand experience of their product or service than do smaller businesses operating in the same space. 

Logically, a larger customer base means a larger absolute number of people who could potentially feel personally slighted by said product or service offered by the big corporation. 

Moreover, reported revenue figures “in the billions,” as opposed to “in the millions,” creates greater distrust due to perception of super-profits. The argument quickly shifts to “how much money does a corporation need to suck out of the economy?”

After all, unless literally invested in the company, we are never really invested in a company’s reputation -- good or bad.

In these circumstances, corporate communicators or public relations professionals have their work cut out for them. A primary task at hand then is identifying a message trigger that is a reason enough for the audience to care. But how does one get around to doing that?

It's simple. Real communicators need to care beyond just the reputation of the company or the bottom line. They need to care -- really care -- about who they serve or what they promise. 

The difference between serving for-profit and serving to deliver on a promise is a thin line. Where people look for motivations that lean on self-fulfillment, corporations -- with people who are literally invested (financially or otherwise) in the business -- tend to lean towards self-fulfillment as its motivation. 

A fundamental reason why self-proclaimed communicators fail is that the message they deliver and its promise may be inauthentic. Good to hear and say, but mostly hollow. Getting caught on hollow words moves the narrative diametrically to the opposite end of where it needs to go.

In my experience, the three ingredients to effective communication, both personal and professional, are 1) empathy (with the audience), 2) intelligence (not to undermine), and 3) honesty (of intent). 

Unfortunately, getting these three ingredients in order can be hard to accomplish without some of it potentially risking the (financial or emotional) bottom line. 

We can either “do” or “do not” and choose to live with the consequences; because the truth of the matter is that you can't genuinely fake authenticity. 

Talat Kamal is a PR & Communications Consultant with more than 24 years of experience in corporate and media communications. He can be reached at [email protected].

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