Not to dog pile on, since so much has already been written about Carly Fiorina’s now infamous Rose Bowl tweet (pictured above), but it really does offer a clear cut example of how insincere communications can be the KISS of death. And it’s so easy, and so common sense it’s hard to believe it needs to be pointed out, except of course, it does… Because for some reason, both people and organizations fall into the trap of telling people what they think they want to hear instead of just telling them the truth.
When you’re communicating with people – whether they’re voters, shareholders, customers or anyone, really – you want to embrace a variation of the KISS principle:
Keep It Sincere Stupid
People forgive a lot of mistakes, but what they won’t tolerate is intentionally trying to manipulate them. Pandering. Opportunist. Insincere. All words not associated with desired leadership traits. But all words that basically everyone associates all too often with politicians. Carly can plead “can’t a girl just have a little fun?” as if she was joking, the problem is, no one believes her because we’re so used to politicians pandering.
One of my favorite lines from the TV show The West Wing took place between White House Communications Director C.J. Craig and President Bartlett’s personal assistant Charlie Young. Charlie had mentioned to a reporter that the President didn’t like green beans, which shook up everyone in the White House because green beans are important to Oregon and Oregon is an important electoral state. In typical operative mode, the staff was worried that the citizens of Oregon would take this as a personal affront and not vote for Bartlett as a result, which Charlie – wisely – wasn’t buying. At one point CJ says “Everybody’s stupid in an election year Charlie,” to which Charlie responds “No. Everybody gets treated stupid in an election year CJ.”
Boy, talk about life imitating art.
Let me show you how easy it should have been for Carly… Instead of tweeting something that nobody believed, even those people to whom she was pandering, or – worse – if she was actually serious nobody would respect, including those people to whom she was pandering, all she had to do was KISS. The result would have been:
See how easy that is. It’s sincere. It’s believable. And no one would take offense with it. Instead, Carly managed to offend everyone and worse, couldn’t even enjoy the victory her alma mater so thoroughly delivered. On the other hand, maybe that’s good prep for her for the coming months.