Sunday, February 08, 2009

Are you one of them, or one of us?

Many clients that I work with have high-paid positions in large organisations. That's why they are asked to appear on TV and radio. An issue they sometimes struggle with is how to relate to the day-to-day problems faced by their customers. If you have people to drive you around, organise your day, and follow your orders, you may be perceived as "one of them". Phrases such as "fat cat" may be used by your opponents to further this perception. If you find yourself categorised as "one of them, not one of us", how can you change people's views?

Some bosses seem to be able to do this effortlessly. Richard Branson represents the Virgin brand often. It's not natural, it's something he's learnt. In fact, he very nervous before any media interviews, but knows that he has to appear. He has nurtured his "common touch", by visiting his businesses regularly, and talking to staff and customers alike. A number of CEOs behave in a similar way, but not nearly enough.

It is essential that you understand, and can relate to, the issues that face your audience. If you don't understand how they feel, you will come across as aloof and distant. Make the point that you are a user of your own services (you are, aren't you?), or that you regularly visit the front line.

Don't pretend to be what you're not. William Hague, great speaker that he is, took a long time to live down the image of wearing a baseball cap to the Notting Hill Carnival, like a "regular guy". What you must do is understand and empathise with your audience. They will love you for it.

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