The secret code of politics

Politicians have adopted the code language of the corporate world, and it’s hurting their connection with voters.

The professionalisation of politics into a career more than a calling, has been accompanied by adoption of corporate phrases and concepts. I was reminded of the issue in a recent BBC story which noted the jarring effect of the term “self executing” in Obama’s 2013 acceptance speech.

The rise of these coded phrases is due to an all-too human effort by those in the political world to upgrade the apparent sophistication of politics. We all want to feel proud of the work we do, but politics is unpopular. It’s also just a little too grubby and sordid for many would-be professionals – all this vote catching and and shoulder rubbing with the masses.

People in politics have adopted corporate-style language so they can present their chosen career to themselves and their peers as requiring a high degree of smarts.

Politics has undoubtedly become more self-consciously strategic; the art and science of politics has improved. Politicians and their staff do attempt to think deeper about the vote-related part of their job. In a sense, this blog is itself representative of the maturity of the political profession.

The irony of the use of corporate language in public settings is that it indicates just how unsophisticated politicians are, and how self-conscious they are about showing off.

You see, strategy should ALWAYS stay behind the scenes. If you want to connect with people, you talk in their language, not yours.

Politicians are simply copying a common mistake of the corporate world – because the problem occurs there as well, when internal code is used in communication with those outside their world; those who are often the targets of their code and strategic concepts.

Truly sophisticated professional strategies are never publicly expressed. Instead, they should define a completely different tone, manner and method of communication that connects with the audience.

Obama made a major mistake when he used the term “self executing” – not only did it chill the emotive and inspirational language he was using to reach out to people, it revealed the people behind him, who they hang out with, and a self-conscious attempt to appear smart.

The political world will be be something to be proud of when its exponents can plan and execute smart, sophisticated concepts, but use simple, understandable, common language to bring it about.

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