What US politics can teach brands about authenticity and transparency

As party conference season comes to a close, and with each political party having failed to truly capture the mood of voters, politicians seem to have an uphill struggle to win people over in time for the 2015 election.

Arun Chaudhury (L), Barack Obama’s former New Media Director, with Scott Learmouth (R), MD of Teamspirit Public Relations
Arun Chaudhury (L), Barack Obama’s former New Media Director, with Scott Learmouth (R), MD of Teamspirit Public Relations
Trust in the authenticity of our MPs is at an all-time low, and it’s a scenario that, for many in the financial services industry, has startling parallels.

There’s a fine line between politics and PR, which is why we flew Arun Chaudhury, Barack Obama’s vidoegrapher and new media director, from Washington DC to speak to our clients.  

American politics is all about getting to know the candidate through television and the internet, and US presidential campaigns are second to none in terms of the money spent and the media scrutiny.

Obama was a different candidate in 2008 than any seen in US politics before. 

What many people do not realise is that this was a conscious decision within the Obama ‘camp’ to represent their candidate exactly as he was – a friendly and down-to-earth politician with a great sense of humour. 

Chaudhury filmed constantly in TV reality show style, knowing that this total transparency would create an unprecedented connection with US voters - and it worked.

For any leader, whether in business or politics, replicating this extreme authenticity is a challenging task. 

Not all CEOs have the charisma of Obama, nor do they need it. 

What they have to do is be willing to open their doors and inspire trust by being seen as they truly are.
The public doesn’t want their business leaders to steal the limelight; they want them to demonstrate their expertise and skill in their field, as well as their integrity.

Our industry needs to help business leaders dispense with anonymous, corporate voices to better connect with the public. 

Our role as public relations professionals is all about authorship and having enough courage to help them embrace the media as a way to invite the public in to witness their work, their challenges and the big issues they are grappling with, warts and all.

Politics is about people, and so is business. History will record Obama as an all-round nice guy – who among today’s generation of CEOs will earn the same trust?

Scott Learmouth is managing director of Teamspirit Public Relations

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