Tell it straight to maintain channel credibility

CloudsIt’s that time of the year again in the UK when we begin to experience a bit of good weather. But grab it while you can because even before I finish writing this temperatures may have plummeted again.

If you enjoy flexible working arrangements, perhaps you can base your working week around when the warmest and sunniest periods will be, so you don’t work on those days. That sounds like a great lifestyle, doesn’t it?

Though you still need to check the weather for yourself or hazard a guess. You can’t rely on the weather forecasts – not entirely.  So often the predicted weather just doesn’t seem to match the reality. Sun is predicted yet we get rain. Rain is predicted but we get sun. That’s fine as far as I’m concerned because I accept it’s difficult to predict the future.

But what I don’t understand is why, when I see that it is raining, the live online weather report for my location says it’s sunny. Something has gone badly wrong. How can I now believe anything the weather forecasters have got to say? The credibility of the forecasting as a source of information suffers.

This principle is the same in communications.

When corporate messaging does not reflect the reality that people are experiencing on the ground, the credibility of the channel suffers, along with the reputation of those perceived as being the authors of the message – usually the organisation’s leadership.

Yet it happens within companies all the time. Is it because the corporate centre believes it can spin a line and everyone will fall in with the official view of how things are supposed to be, or is it because the corporate centre really doesn’t know what is going on? And if so, why doesn’t it know – what is it doing wrong?

This applies just as much to communicating with employees, as it does with external audiences.

If I’m told that things are not quite right in an organisation but they can be fixed, then I can accept that. Likewise, going back to the weather example, if I’m told it’s raining, and it is raining, then I might not like it but I will retain my faith in the channel.

Using a narrative which people recognise as accurate helps you to communicate your message even if, ultimately, the news is unwelcome. The channel is trusted.

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