We all know authenticity is important in political communication. Trump gets a huge wrap from his supporters for ‘saying it like it is’, even when the content of his message is revolting. Pauline Hanson gets similar kudos for saying outlandish and often racist things which are ‘politically incorrect’ and therefore, somehow more worthy because they’re without censorship and therefore fall loosely into the bucket of ‘authentic’, a bucket which sits in a bath-tup of ‘the right way to communicate’.
I know what you’re thinking because I’m thinking it too. Surely to be authentic we don’t have to be gross and say nasty things and be anti-fact and make headlines by being provocative for the sake of being provocative? Surely we’re all better than that?
Yes, we are better than that.
In fact, you are so much better than that, I truly would prefer to hear what you say rather than what the ‘populist’, ‘anti-political-correctness‘ crowd says. I would prefer you grabbed that headline! But the thing is, if you’re not authentic about how you say what you say, no one is going to hear you.
Have you heard of the sniff test? Humans can smell inauthenticity a mile off. What traditionalists might call ‘the party line’, or what you might think of as being ‘well prepared with media training and a list of dot points about why you’re right and everyone else is wrong’, often, I’m really sorry to say, this careful way of communicating, comes across very wooden on our TV screens, monotonal on the radio, flat in print and downright beige on social media.
The enemy of wooden is authenticity. The antidote to woodiness is emotion. We are truly ourselves when we are emotional. And when we’re trying to hide emotion, well, then we’re not just wooden, but we’re the wooden-boy himself – Pinocchio – the one whose nose grows when he’s lying. I know you’re not lying but when you come across all wooden, to be emotively honest, the audience is waiting for your nose to grow. When people say ‘I like Trump, he tells it how it is’, that’s code for ‘he’s being honest and I agree with him’. Of course, he is, unfortunately, lying, but that’s by the by. Perception is reality folks. The important part is that people are listening to, and reacting to, what he has to say.
Obviously I’m not advocating the type of emotion that would see you thrown out of a pub for brawling, or weeping openly with a stream of snot dripping onto your shirt. I’m talking more about that emotion that comes from a passion in your convictions. You are working to further a progressive cause because you’re passionate about it. So tell us: why are you suggesting this policy change? Is it because you’re angry about the way things are now? Show us you’re angry! Do you find something a journalist said to you so outlandish that you want to laugh? Then laugh. Laugh out loud! Do you have a dry sense of humour? Use it! Are you quick witted, always ready to say something cutting? Cut away! Do you do an awesome face palm or an epic eye roll? Give us all you’ve got! Play to your unique strengths!
The best way to elicit an emotional, authentic, and memorable reaction from your audience is to give them one. It’s as simple, and as difficult, as that.