Unless you’ve been on a trip to the Planet Zog in the last 24 hours you cannot have missed the own-goal scored by Gordon Brown as he was caught out calling a life-long Labour voter a “bigoted woman”. You cannot move for the coverage in the media – and at one point yesterday there were 30 tweets per minute about the topic. Indeed, it was the Number One “trending topic” on Twitter throughout the day. Only the Labour supporting Daily Mirror (above) has attempted to find something positive in the situation for “Gaffey Gordon”.
Much coverage – and many Tweets – have focused on the fact that he should have been aware that he was still wearing a microphone. Indeed, there has been criticism of his lack of media skills. True, he ought to know better – if a microphone is anywhere in the vicinity, assume it is switched on…! And there is precedent for this – former Prime Minister John Major was also “caught out” when he thought an interview was over, only to discover the whole subsequent outburst was on tape. You would think that the Prime Minister’s media managers would have warned him.
Yes, the lack of media skills is an issue for someone who is on the TV day in, day out. Also, at issue is Gordon Brown’s rudeness and lack of respect. The questions asked by pensioner Gillian Duffy might have been hurtful to some, but not to others. Tweets have pointed out that she is entitled to her views and so is Gordon Brown. Like the criticisms against Mr Brown’s media skills, the debate about the differing viewpoints is also true; these two people are entitled to their views and if he thinks Mrs Duffy is bigoted, he is within his obvious rights to think that.
The potential rudeness, the lack of media skills – these are not the crux of the problem. The real issue is that Gordon has revealed his true self to us. The Prime Minister we have seen thus far is a veneer; it is a fabrication of a man produced by spin doctors and by the Labour Party machine. Remember the fuss when it was suggested Mr Brown was a bit of a bully in the office. We were all led to believe it was just a massive media make-believe. What that story – and yesterday’s gaffe – reveals to us is Gordon Brown’s lack of authenticity. The man we are allowed to see, is not the real Gordon Brown.
It is lack of authenticity which we dislike. When couples split up, for instance, at the heart of the issue is lack of authenticity; true, a husband may have been a love-cheat, but what his wife is really hurt by is the fact that he is not the man she thought she married. Similarly, in business, when you start working for a client only to discover they were not the company you thought they were when you got the contract – how do you feel? You are prone to negative thoughts due to the lack of authenticity.
It is not lack of media skills or rudeness we find a problem with Gordon Brown, but his clear and apparent lack of authenticity. And that is the problem with vast swathes of the Internet. Many web businesses fail to achieve what they really want simply because they are not authentic.
For instance, how many well-designed websites have you been to, only to find that the company – which looks brilliant on the surface – is run by a couple of shoddy dealers with no consideration for customer service? How many of those interminably long sales letters are from people who truly want to help your business? The web page says clearly they are there to help you – but once you have bought the ebook or downloaded the software you quickly discover that they are actually only interested in lining their own pockets. And what about the LinkedIn profile that claims the individual has done amazing things for their former employers – though there is no-one from that company actually connected to them?
All across the Internet there is lack of authenticity. Even though research tells us that people are more honest on their Facebook profiles than they are face-to-face, business websites expose a considerable degree of dishonesty. If your website fails to reflect your values, fails to demonstrate who you truly are and fails to show an honest picture of your business, then it too will ultimately fail. Yes, like Gordon Brown, you may be able to survive for some time with the false version on display. But eventually something will happen that will catch you out. Don’t be like Gordon – make sure that everything you do online is authentic.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+