The Disenfranchisement That Isn’t

They are disenfranchised

we’ve heard it more and more in various political analysis always in relation to the so called grievance parties and their voters, think UKIP, Front National, Sweden Democrats, Vlaams Belang, and even if they are not parties – Trump and to a certain extend Sanders (although for his voters it’s more “quaint but unrealistic”). It’s an argument which has been repeated with higher and higher voices and more and more intensely. You know, like we all do when we are trying to convince ourselves that something we doubt are really the gospel.

I started with looking up what disenfranchised means, and Merriam Webster defines it as

to deprive of a franchise, of a legal right, or of some privilege or immunity; especially :  to deprive of the right to vote

in other words, in the original meaning it is a conscious act of someone that puts another person in the position of disenfranchisement. But in the criticism I have read is has come to mean a group of people that seemingly have removed themselves from [mainstream] society.

However, my question is – have they? In the latest Edelman Trust Barometer their results show an increasing trust divide towards businesses and governments. Neither, it is felt by the large majority, deliver. Personally, when it comes to politics I agree. More and more I have the sense that [national] politics is kindergarten for overpaid party players that has been elected, not so much based on competence, but because they turned up and that doesn’t dare to take real responsibility. The difference is that since I belong to the informed public, as defined by Edelman, aged 24 – 64; college educated; in top 25% income per age group in each country; report significant media consumption and engagement in business news; my criticism is more likely to be seen as well-informed and to the point while someone not from this group saying the same will be considered as disenfranchised.

Again, I ask, are the voters that vote on these “grievance parties” disenfranchised? Maybe they have looked at their society and see a reality where their worries are not listened to, where they have increasing difficulties in finding jobs that makes ends meet, where ghettos are on the rise, where jobs are moved elsewhere and where politicians, whom frankly often should know better, seems to be locked in endless wars of power instead of doing what they where elected to do – deliver a society of [relative] inclusion. Based on this maybe, just think the thought, these so called disenfranchised voters have made their analysis and decided to protest almost the only way we can protest in a democratic society – by casting our ballots.

But what happens when they turn up, and don’t forget, grievance parties often get their voters to turn up and vote in a much higher extent than traditional parties, and decide to exercise what at the same time is their citizen right and obligation? They are reproached for voting on the wrong party. If that was me treated like that, I’d be raving mad in white linen. And not only that, I’d be even more convinced that I am right.

So, my advice, to the mainstream parties, should they care and bother – if you want to bridge the widening gulf of distrust meet the grieved electorate and show, with measurable actions and without retreating into populism I mean e.g. globalism is here to stay; that you take their world view seriously and continuously and not just when it’s that time in the election cycle.

PR’s and journalists – are we really that unprofessional?

Our level of professionalism is something I query every now and then. In particular when it comes to what is called “press contacts” in my line of business.

Let me explain with an example:

I am at interview (always there it happens) and the prospective employer asks me: Whom do you know at FT/the Economist/Computer World… (just pick your favourite news outlet).

The thinking being that as long as you know a journalist at these outlets your news will get printed. Seriously? Are we that unprofessional? Are journalists? Personally I am convinced that if a piece of news is of interest for that outlet, or rather its readers, it will get printed whether I know that journalist or not. OK, I understand that from a purely human angle it is easier to speak with, and listen too, someone you know – at least in a professional capacity – than a complete stranger. After all we’re only human, but evaluating if content are news worthy or not, surely that’s independent of personal ties?

It is my job as PR/Communications to explain to the eager person on my side of the fence that Yes, this is a completely new product it is of interest. No, bug fix number 1055 is not of interest even if it took you six months to fix it.

And I remain strong in my belief that if I indeed get to “know” the journalist, the outlet and its readers i.e. understand what triggers them and what they find interesting in what I might provide them with they will listen. Maybe not publish, I get that, but at least listen.

I must say that I find the approach above deplorable and unprofessional both concerning us as PR/Communicators and concerning journalists.

Or am I naïve?

Change at the Grassroots – How to Attract Government Attention

Being heard and enacting social reform is not just a problem under authoritarian regimes. Even in democracies, where newspapers have been filled with headlines on people crying out for change, we see little development or legislative change.

The Occupy Movement saw thousands of people protest the international capitalist system, camping in sub-zero temperatures for months on end; while thousands of students in the UK took to the streets to protest against rising tuition fees and its effects on social mobility. From Syrian citizens to Sri Lanka’s Tamils, from American activists to China’s Tibetan monks, people in every corner of the world are crying out for change.

The only two examples (I can think of) where the grassroots managed was the Pirate movement against the Anti-counterfeiting Trade Agreement, ACTA, that got voted down in the European Parliament, and the tragic desperation of Tarek al-Tayeb Mohamed Bouazizi that led to the Arab Spring.

With little relative change, it begs the question, is anyone listening? What about us ‘little people’? Also, do we want it? Because while it is enticing with the image of David vs. Goliath, the fact is that some of the changes that happened through grassroot protests can be considered as revolutions through violence.

Here are a couple of points which will help you achieve attention of governments and help you lobby your case. In short, persistence and preparation are key.

Article originally published on Grassroot Diplomat: http://www.grassrootdiplomat.org/news/2015/5/11/change-at-the-grassroots-how-to-attract-government-attention

How do you identify curious?

No, I don’t mean curious as in strange, but curious as in ever wanting to find out what’s behind the next stone. Curious as in interested to learn and to find out more.

And I am talking about curious employees. Employees t that are willing to learn new things, employees that are willing to learn new thinking, or at least doesn’t mind thinking that there might be other mindsets than the ones well-known.

As any change specialist will tell one key in change is to find one or few champions and instil in them the courage to change. And this probably something of the most difficult there is – to embrace change. Even though I am now living and working in my sixth country, I don’t know how open to change I actually am.

Currently involved in a change process there is one big new development that potentially will be an industry shake up, but it will take time and effort – and curiosity. It isn’t for everyone, there are many employees that are happy to go to work, do their job as well as they can, and then go home. And like in any context all types are needed. But for a company to survive, we also need the shakers, the curious that are willing to look behind the stone to learn a new mind-set and a new way of thinking.

So how do you identify these employees?

Networking yourself [to a new job]

I’m following this Coursera MOOC on “International Leadership and Organizational Behaviour”, #ILOB and I quite enjoy it. Although I don’t really know about the academic endeavour and value with these classes new learning is always positive.

Today’s lecture is about the Impact of Social Networks on Organizations and Groups, it speaks about different types of networks – strong vs. weak, closed vs. open etc. But I wonder, does it (= networking) work? And if you find yourself in a surrounding aka network and you’re the odd man out what good will a network be to you? In my own situation e.g. it is no secret that I’m looking for a new job and that I come with a good experience and competencies to execute in the jobs I apply for. Only I seem to exist in some Boy zone, that is Brussels public affairs in IT, and even if I turn over backwards I will never be male so I literally don’t fit in. This is not a criticism, it is stating facts of human nature, I believe that the correct academic term is Homophily, i.e. we bond easier with people whom are similar to ourselves. But with result is that unless we dare to go outside the famous box our network will look as ourselves. From a sheer business point of view that while a closed network like this will offer good ways to collaborate, higher trust etc., closed networks like these will also see lack of innovation, high redundancy in competencies and so on. Of course, I understand that there are two in any connection and I am entirely open to the fact that I’m the weak spot in any [future] relationship. Then the question is – what does that say about me? Maybe I haven’t invested enough in my network? Possibly. Like so much in our lives networks are earned, it could be that I haven’t earned my network. On the other hand none of “my” contacts have just landed in my lap.

I’ve always been a firm believer in “keeping shut and getting the work done” and that this will eventually pay off in more interesting jobs, tasks and better remuneration. Yes, I admit there are limits to my altruism and both the landlord and myself like the concept of paying the monthly bills in full, every month. An old-fashion concept I know, but one that I like because well, it works. But no, not so. Apparently I have to look at my wide network as a strategic asset. Dear me, these a people I’ve passed a good time with having coffee or so, but now they are suddenly an asset. I find it all a bit disconcerting, because while I don’t mind helping out as much as I can myself when someone asks for help I dislike the notion of being an asset. And if I dislike this it is easy to assume that so does my counterparts.

So while I understand that No Man is an Island I’m remain a bit uneasy of the concept of regarding my fellow human beings as assets. And to balance the giving and taking. Or am I maybe over thinking the art of networking?

The Thank You letter after an interview – how to formulate?

After each interview I send a Thank you letter thanking the interviewer for their time, re-connecting to some of our conversation and reiterate my interest in the role and the company. I usually also try to say that I’d do well in the role by some additional thinking e.g. a short strategy for communications, PR or Public Affairs or whatever the role is about. The question is should I do that or should I just keep the letter short and sweet?

I’m just asking because once a recruiter gave me some coaching before an interview and I mentioned that I planned to bring a presentation with me. The interviewer cautioned against it because since we didn’t know what the turns the interview would take and if I then left behind something that had nothing to do with the actual discussion I would be remembered by that rather than what I wanted to be remembered by.

With the Thank you letter I of course have a better situation since I know what we discussed so that part is easily managed. But there is still a lingering doubt that I’m wearing a bit off the best route. Why could it be a bad thing to show that I can do the job? Because what I show might not be exactly what the hiring company is looking for and then this will be what I leave behind and my efforts to further display my competencies will then simply be the stumbling block that takes me out of the race.

What say the recruiters in my network? What’s the best way to pen a Tank you letter?

“It’s nothing personal” – “Please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies” ‑ so they say

When applying for jobs one must grow rhinoceros hide and learn to accept rejection after rejection. Of course I get disappointed when I get a no, I mean I applied for the job. At the same time, it goes without saying that in a hiring process the company should identify and hire the person they feel can do the job. Identifying the right candidate is after all the goal with any hiring exercise, no question about it. And in a hiring situation there are more concerns to take into account than I can being to understand.

However, the thing I find hardest to handle are the comments that comes with the rejections, the ones going along the line of “It’s nothing personal and please don’t take it as a reflection of your competencies.”

You know what? With the risk of sounding like Donna Corleone, this IS personal. We are talking about my competencies, my experiences. It is me, myself and I that is weighed and found too light. I am the one rejected, not the competition. Of course I accept the message. There is after all not much else to do.