A crisis of faith

I had an epiphany this year.

I think it was when the TUC’s Antonia Bance was talking at the CIPR National Conference. In my time working for WYCA I received a great many releases via our monitoring company from RMT. I would read these releases with a small sense of amusement and disdain; the language was so “them and us”, the kind of rhetoric I remember from the 1970s and 1980s. Who were they trying to convince?

Such releases ran contrary to the aim of encouraging more people to use public transport in general and trains in particular by fostering a collaborative working environment. Or something. Whatever it is I tell people at parties what it is that I do (did).

But then the penny dropped. Those RMT releases weren’t aimed at people like me, or national and local politicians, or reporters and the readers of the newspapers they were writing for. They were aimed solely at RMT members.

Everything I’ve ever done has been about better communications, helping to create a common understanding between communicating parties, whether that be in public transport, education or as a librarian. Because it’s only through a shared belief and common position that we can all move forward, for the benefit of all. Right?

It seems I was wrong. It’s about finding a target audience and talking to them alone, to the exclusion of whatever might be happening in the world outside. It worked for Vote Leave – bolster the beliefs of your constituency, even though you some of what you’re saying is a bit suspect, so that they turn out and vote for you. It worked for The Donald too.

It also means that, when it comes to polls and similar, that there aren’t really any ‘undecideds’ at all – just the ‘unengaged’.

That’s a really depressing thought. I’ve made a professional career on creating a dialogue and building good relationships with all parties, when it seems I should have put on the blinkers and buried my head in the sand inside the echo chamber.

Am I in the wrong business?

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