This is something I shouldn’t have to write. But here we go.
Giuseppe di Lampedusa’s The Leopard examines Italy’s changing societal and political structures as the country unifies in the 1860s. On one side is the old order, represented by the Duke of ancient feudal lineage. On the other, the newly-elected Mayor, a solidly middle-class businessman.
The Duke makes the decision that the best approach is to work with the Mayor: the change is inevitable so there’s no point fighting it. They form an unlikely partnership, with the Mayor coming to understand that there are in fact things he can learn from the Duke.
It’s a wonderful story and I’ve simplified it horribly.
A small incident in the book has guided the way I think about communications. At one point, the Duke says, ‘Sometimes more can be obtained by saying “I haven’t explained myself well” than “I can’t understand a word”’. And the point, clearly, is that it is up to the communicator to communicate, not the audience to interpret.
And this brings me to what I shouldn’t have to say.
I’m sure the UK isn’t alone in this. But in the past few days it’s been very striking that the messaging from the Government around travel, both abroad for holidays, and in and out of the areas most effected by the B.1.617 variant, has been utterly hopeless. Or, in some cases, non-existent.
It might be that the objective is to be purposefully obtuse to make us all think about it and make our own minds up. But I fear that’s giving too much credit.
It’s more that, over a year later, the Government’s Covid policies are unclear. It is keen not to go back to any form of lockdown, localised or otherwise, which is perhaps an unnecessary self-imposed restraint. And because of the uncertainty, the communications messages are unclear. They haven’t explained themselves well.
Whatever the whys and wherefores, every communicator can learn from it, whether you’re selling a product or service, marketing a company or selling an idea. And this is real 101 stuff: sometimes, as seems to be happening in the UK right now, we forget the first principles.
- Make sure you are very clear about what you think and what you want to say
- Communicate about it clearly
It becomes more complicated in the detail, of course, but even the most skilled operators are useless if the messaging is muddled.
I really shouldn’t have had to write this.