There are few things in life as pointless and as miserable as folk music.
I was reminded of this at an open mic night at Boris Johnson’s Oxfordshire local, writes Headlines’ CEO Peter Doherty.
Sandwiched between a cheerful guitar duo and an immersive Pink Floyd tribute experience were three worthies with sandals and socks and Corbyn beards.
Faces contorted with torment, they punished our patience with an excruciating dirge about suffering and being northern and poor.
As someone who’s spent a working life trying to create things that audiences find pleasing, I can’t imagine the twisted sense of entitlement that compels these dreary folkistas to inflict their gloom on pub-goers who leave their homes for an evening of entertainment.
By comparison, the pensionable prog rockers paying homage to Pink Floyd were positively euphoric. Scintillating guitar solos, memorable riffs and joyous melodies that swept us away on a tide of acoustic ecstasy.
It was old and unoriginal and certainly not worthy. But even “hanging on in quiet desperation” struck an inspirational chord that elevated the mood of the sweaty backroom.
Now that we have apparently entered an era known as “post-truth”, what does all this mean for internal communication?
Wikipedia describes post-truth as “a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy”.
It suggests that politicians have identified that these days we aren’t inclined to take too much interest in whether something is important, or viable, or even true.
But if it offers us the thinnest veneer of mental gratification, the chances are we’ll respond positively.
As a result, they no longer trouble us with the truth or bore us with the detail. They simply tell us what we want to hear.
This fresh new approach to the way we are communicated with is born partly of our digital age.
We have succumbed to a world where the boundaries between reality and entertainment are now, at best, nebulous.
We exist on a diet of trivia peppered with small bites of fact.
Our appetite for knowledge is satiated by superficial grazing.
Many of us have conceded to letting our views be shaped by celebrity opinions or pleasing themes rather than careful scrutiny.
In politics, taking advantage of this convergence of fact and fantasy has delivered remarkable success. But does it also have implications for business and therefore internal communication?
The answer is yes.
We should not be so sanctimonious as to believe we can buck the trend. Instead we should understand and learn from it.
I’m not advocating we peddle falsehoods.
Nor that we avoid confronting critical issues or communicating essential information. That, after all, is what we are here for.
But if we’re to do a good job, we’d be foolish to ignore the post-truth truth: it is all about simplicity and resonance and positioning to appeal. And for many people the devil is the detail.
While folk songs may be deep and meaningful, they are also miserable and tedious and not remotely entertaining. They fall on deaf ears.
But carefully crafted lyrics, memorable riffs and joyous melodies lift our mood and inspire us.
What I’m advocating is that we consider IC as a form of entertainment.
Keep it simple, make it fun.
Because as politicians have discovered, whether the audience is made up of rocket scientists or road sweepers, communication works far more effectively when people find it an uplifting joy and not a worthy dirge.