April 28, 2017 • 3 minute read
When the Prime Minister announced a snap election on 18th April, it was not a political party, or a think tank, or a broadcaster that had the most memorable thing to say, but Brenda from Bristol.
Brenda was doorstepped by a television crew moments after the announcement had been made public, in order to capture her reaction to the news. What followed has become an internet sensation as her reaction of “You’re joking. Not another one? Oh for God’s sake. Honestly, I can’t stand this”, all in her glorious brizzle accent, managed to capture the sentiment of the majority of the British public.
Brenda’s message is loud and clear: this is the problem caused when communicators don’t listen.
Theresa May claims she needs an election in order to have a mandate to govern the Brexit process. I get it. Her current political position is that of a general with an army she didn’t pick going into a battle she didn’t want. Much of the British electorate didn’t want it either, but wherever you stand on exiting the European Union, Article 50 has now been triggered and people just want the government to get on with it. The point is, however, that the British public has been saying this for a while now, and there is a real feeling that the British electorate is just not being listened to.
What’s worse is that we’ve now entered the campaigning phase. Here come the Conservatives: “We need strong and stable leadership. Leadership that’s strong. Leadership that’s stable. Leadership that’s stable and strong. Strong leadership in a stable.” We get it. And we know the leader of the opposition’s view: “We’re all doomed captain Mainwaring!”. We get it. Now get on with it. As Brenda herself went on to say: “There’s too much politics going on at the moment”.
This goes to the heart of this issue, and is something that companies and politicians alike need to remember: always listen to your audience.
The electorate wants to understand how Brexit is going to happen. Who will be doing what. In what way. What the choices and impacts will be. It’s the same with any stakeholder engagement – communication requires good messaging, but equally good listening, taking the feedback and responding to both compliments and criticisms alike.
My mother, a bristolian like Brenda, used to say: “You have two ears and one mouth, listen twice as much as you talk”. It’s absolutely true. Whether it’s dealing with a crisis or launching a new campaign, history is full of examples where messaging has failed wholly because it hasn’t taken into account the views of the listener. It’s the difference between transmitting and communicating. Understanding the likely response should always be the first step in crafting your messaging if you want to be listened to.
So Brenda, I’ve heard you.