Posted tagged ‘debate’

Is there a policy response to the human element of looting? – Bodyproject contributes to a Social Marketing network debate

20/08/2011

Bodyproject contributes to a debate led by the Social Marketing Network posing the question…Is there a policy response to the human element of looting?

“…I’m troubled by this discussion as I don’t understand half of it – not sure what a ‘broad scope behavioural insight driven intervention framework’ is. I’m not being overly critical or rude – I just don’t know what some of this debate is about and it may be me being ‘thick!’

But what I do know having been out and about in some inner city communities over the last few weeks is that we have a large number of people who are feeling very disenfranchised and that our society is badly failing in parts.

I think the present political and public service structure is badly broken. We have a Government that seems to be making it up as it goes along, a parliamentary committee structure that could have been more use in Arthur Miller’s portrayal of Salem, a judiciary thrashing around, the Police impotent in the face of new criminal and crowd behaviour (from responses such as kettling to surging – neither has worked) and a public sector DNA that is just so wholly lost in its own process and procedures it has little chance of influencing change.

The people I have spoken to are very angry. They are heavily in ‘victim’ mode and are just observing consumerism dangled in the their faces (the haves and the have nots). They constantly hear and see and perceive corruption, greed, abuse of power and have just lost faith. Austerity and deficits mean nothing to them it just means they pay a heavier price. So in the end when faced by what John describes they are going to be compelled to grab what they can. Ultimately, I don’t think there is a policy response as how can you legislate for good versus bad. Its the old saying of actions speak louder than words and shadow of the leader. What we need is a clear vision for our society and the values articulated. Then we need people who are in leading positions to start to show the way. But from football to banking, politics to media, those that can afford to have holidays to those who cant, health inequalities to etc etc etc – its a huge challenge…”

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Communicators…stay strong

29/04/2010

“…That was a disaster. Should never have put me with that woman … whose idea was that?…”

Gordon Brown Leader of the Labour Party

If you are a communications professional, the behaviour of Gordon Brown towards his advisers will come as no surprise.  Many of us have direct experience of the different faces of the leaders we work with.  Every day, we see Chief Executives, Chairs and Managing Directors in ‘victim’ mode seeking to blame and ‘hunt’ for who is responsible.

I remember about ten years ago at an event for a hundred managers, a then Managing Director asking them to be frank, open and honest with him as he welcomed their feedback.  One of the managers took him up on his offer and in the room he thanked her for her ‘challenge’ and promised to respond.  I was then ‘in the car’ with him after the event heading to a meeting with politicians and received the full force of his rant seeking to know who she thought she was, where she worked and how dare she do that to him in public.  But, worse was to follow as within a day or two he called her aside for a ‘quiet word’ and then she moved jobs!  This action was noted by everyone and reverberated around the business resulting in stasis and silence.

The problem comes down to behavioural types and the fact that many ‘in power’ are from more analytical and command control backgrounds.  You will notice that senior leaders are often time served in their profession (ex footballers tend to become managers, nurses become NHS CEOS, engineers run utilities, accountants become FDs/CFOs before jumping into CEO positions).  Many of them hold dearly this ‘status’ track record alongside distinctive qualifications such as engineering degrees or accountancy qualifications.   There are very few who may have made it from a PR or marketing background and the reason is simple in that communication professionals tend to be more supporting and often perceived as ‘soft’.  But in our profession you have to be tough and strong and challenge these behaviours.

I once had a disagreement with a major American consultancy teaching that people can ‘flex’ their behavioural types.  I disagree as a ‘leopard can’t change its spots.’  Of course you can always pretend to flex as Gordon Brown demonstrated yesterday but to use another predatory animal comparator – when in a room with a Brown it will feel to many like being a Gazelle in the presence of a tiger.  Our instincts will tell us what to do – flee!!!

The MD in the story I tell above tried to describe to me that he didn’t mind a push back but hated a challenge.  A stupid statement as what is the difference.  Only he could judge that as I found out to my cost many times.  Of course he surrounded himself with like types and sycophants and branded me a ‘rebel’ and a ‘leftie’ and needless to say eventually we parted company or rather he was shown the door.

Unfortunately for Brown that same door looms large and it is HIS fault and nobody else.  He can’t change.  He can’t flex.  He is what he is.  He is one of the greatest chancellors there ever was, he knows the numbers, he would make a great FD, he is a policy guru but he is not a natural leader and even less a communicator.  The contrast will become even starker when Tony Blair joins the campaign as a consummate communicator who actually, although many people would dispute this, is very honest to what he is both on camera and off.

The message from Bodyproject to all communication professionals is stay strong to your values whichever leader you work with.  Never be afraid to challenge them and above all you can ‘only lead the horse to water’ – beyond that there is only so much you can do.

This post is dedicated to Sue and Justin who will be no doubt receiving the wrath (maybe silent this time) of Gordon.