Mike King demonstrates that to achieve your communication objectives you usually must risk someone disagreeing with you.
The tension in our professional lives is how to express our opinion without getting offside with others.
We measure our communication by agreeability. We talk in truisms. Our views are expressed only very broadly. We echo common sentiments. We pour ourselves into uncontroversial subjects.
In PR, successful communication means achieving an objective. Almost every meaningful objective will have a barrier in front of it. There will be people who disagree, who want to stop you, or just don’t care. Some of these will matter to the objective, others not. Either way, you’ll be offside with someone before you have even started.
Here’s where most of us come unstuck. We are so locked into the professional importance of being agreeable that we are not willing to endure even the risk of disagreement.
Ironically, our society regularly lauds those who have made a difference – who have brought about change. We treasure them without appreciation of the risks they have taken, and hardships endured, while they tried to persuade people to their point of view.
Communication objectives are inherently risky. We started the Communicator of the Year award to show people who have taken the risk of an unequivocal position and used communication to bring about change.
Mike King takes these risks. He risks upsetting people, even important people. He risks being divisive and being called wrong in public. He risks telling his personal stories. He risks showing his emotions. He risks speaking to everyday Kiwis about sad and personal things, especially younger Kiwis.
He overcomes or shrugs off these hazards by going hard at his objective. He communicates using real language; ordinary words assembled for clarity – simple to grasp, yet bearing great meaning. He is a master of the Kiwi vernacular, new and old. He specialises in breaking through Kiwi reticence, using the comedian’s tool of blunt honesty. This is moderated by his use of Kiwi understatement.
That’s why Mike King is our communicator of the year; he is embracing the risk that people will disagree with him, to change the way New Zealanders talk about depression and suicide.
Photo: Mark Blackham and Mike King.