Growing divide between politicians and web users

Politicians are consistently demonstrating they are growing ever further out of touch with the rest of us. A new study from the George Washington University in the USA shows that young people are interested in politics and they would love to get involved – if only politicians would talk to them and give them more, relevant information.

Meanwhile an earlier piece of research showed that young people under the age of 24 are increasingly politically active online, yet the older, established political elite are failing to connect with them in any meaningful way. Add to this criticism this week of the UK Labour Party from President Obama’s digital strategist and you can see that Gordon Brown is in more trouble than he thinks. According to Thomas Gensemer, the Labour Party’s online strategy is in tatters – too little, too late with no senior level buy-in.

At the same time as traditional politicians are failing to connect with the online generation, a group of independent candidates for the next British general election are clubbing together to operate their campaigns online. What’s different about these independents is that they have lived in the “real world” most of their lives, whereas the Westminster crowd are in a world of their own.

And therein lies their problem – and yours. Failing to understand the world as other people see it is at the crux of every business problem you face. Just like politicians, if business owners do not inform people and connect with them in the way they want, then you are actually disconnected, no matter how hard you try.

Yesterday I was speaking at a meeting when a Ph.D psychology student who is looking at email communication in the business world came up to me after my talk to explain his current study to me. He has taken emails from business people who were responding to requests for work and who failed to get the job on offer. He has analysed the original email of the person seeking the work and then looked at the communication style of the responder. He then asked the responders to re-write their emails in the same style as the original emailer. Guess what? The re-written emails were judged as successful by the person seeking the work.

What this tells us is that we need to communicate in the preferred way of our recipients. Politicians may be “at home” in the Newsnight studio or on Radio 4, but to truly connect with the people who are actually interested in politics they need a completely different approach. Radically different.

And so it is true for business. Your preferred communications methods and styles may not be those of your customers. If you fail to communicate in their preferred style you actually fail to communicate at all. Take note Gordon Brown.

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