We live in a world where perceptions are realities, for good or ill. In Perceptionomics, a new booklet on the subject, I’ve tried to flesh out 60 ways in which perceptions could be altered. It could act as a prompt for thought for comms people as well as a note to help you if you feel you’re being manipulated.
But in reflecting on how comms people are perceived by senior leaders some other thoughts occurred to me. So here are eight things that could, irrespective of your talent, affect your ability to do comms.
1. You’ll need to understand politics and have “nous” but nobody will explain what it is to you. The risk in asking about nous is that you may betray a lack of it.
2. Negative media coverage can be seen as a proxy for the competence of senior managerial and political leaders in the minds of ruling groups. Long running negative stories can erode political capital. Neither may have anything to do with reality.
3. Senior leaders can be very isolated and may surround themselves with people reluctant to criticise their approach, fostering a false world view. Offering truth to power may be difficult. If you have to deliver a critical appraisal of someone or their actions, never do it in front of other people.
4. Keeping your ear to the ground and scanning horizons is helpful, especially when you are able to report to senior leaders what people say about them or their programmes. But you may have to feed back carefully and cushion hard blows.
5. It’s important to plan what you are going to say, particularly at key meetings, even if you want to sound spontaneous. Remember that everyone is a comms expert.
6. Comms is never more appreciated than when it is able to help people get out of the holes into which they have dug themselves. Never waste a crisis, as they say - they can help you to be perceived as indispensable.
7. You will get access to many important people, keen to listen to you. It’s possible to overplay your hand and have a view about or an impact on areas that you may not fully understand. Remember where your expertise lies.
8. It can be hard to get real time data about the impact of your work. Analytics and evaluation are to be embraced. In an evidence-based world, have some. But be prepared to be challenged if you are contradicting accepted wisdom.
Free download: Perceptionomics - 60 ways to change how people see things (and how to spot when it’s being done to you) by Mark Fletcher-Brown