A recent Telefónica poll found that an overwhelming majority (71 per cent) of the millennial generation do not believe that voting makes any difference.
This growing cynicism about politics confirms a trend that was first identified some time ago: the move from deference to reference. Where people used to accept the views of those in authority through broadcast media or in print, they now talk as equals on social media with anyone they wish, as often as they wish.
The right of response is immediate and anyone can pounce on anything you say that doesn’t quite ring true – and before you know it you have a PR crisis on your hands. And it is not just the millennials who are becoming cynical about those who are in power.
If a brand wants to gain respect it has to earn it, every day. It has to be consistent in everything it does, and not just in its comms. If every discrepancy between word and deed will be exposed, you have to make sure there isn’t any.
The more you tell people that they can trust you, the less they do. You have to stand for something. Authenticity is the new currency.
Creativity is all around us. But the creative idea without the foundation of authenticity is a bubble in the wind. Authenticity has to permeate everything we do. It’s no use blaming the intern for inappropriate tweets, for people now want to know why you didn’t provide proper training.
It is no use saying you didn’t know about something, for people will ask why you didn’t ask.
Authenticity is a long-term commitment expressed moment by moment. We encourage our CEO Ronan Dunne to tweet and to respond to tweets himself. Personal passion has to be translated into action in a way that fits in with the proclamations. We often get him to talk about his daughter and how her life influences his thinking.
He also speaks to customers just as often as to other CEOs, and we try to bring that out in all his messaging.
Perhaps the millennials have a point. Perhaps they are right to be cynical. If the world has become so equal, where are the equal opportunities?
It seems to be time for communicators to take the next step in holding the business to account and push harder for actions that match our words.
For example if you say you want to appeal to young people, then why not get out there and help some of them get started on a career?
As Ronan says, if we don’t see companies and politicians taking action to inspire and mobilise young people, then we risk alienating an entire generation, and as a consequence missing out on the skills and talent that can help to secure the UK’s economic future.
Nicola Green is director of communications and reputation at Telefónica UK