Wise words from a communications Olympian

BrockDoyleAfter attending the season’s launch earlier in the month, last week I took another trip to the salubrious surroundings of St David’s Hotel in Cardiff Bay for a Cardiff Business Club event.

Kicking off the season was Jackie Brock-Doyle OBE, CEO of Good Relations Group. When you’re credited with bringing the Olympics to London and having a large say in overseeing communications for the whole thing, as well as for the Paralympics, Commonwealth and Invictus Games: that deserves respect.

Ok, she may not have actually been an Olympian. But in working presumably very closely with Sebastian Coe to bring the Games to London, she might as well have been. If we can call ‘Eddie The Eagle Edwards’ an Olympian, I’m fairly sure we can call Jackie Brock-Doyle one too.

The promotional blurb went as follows:

Jackie has worked in the communication and marketing field for over 25 years and is regarded as one of the world’s leading communication strategists.

She directed the communication strategy and implementation for the world acclaimed London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games for 7 years after leading the successful bid’s international and domestic PR and Media campaign from 2003 to 2006.

Jackie has lived and worked in the UK, Australia and Singapore and has run campaigns across Europe, the USA, Asia Pacific, Australasia, Africa and the Middle East.

She has designed and directed marketing, communication, media and sponsorship programmes for some of the world’s biggest brands and events, including Visa International, the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Cadbury, the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, Coca Cola, Samsung, the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympic Games and the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Not a shabby CV. So, what did she have to say?

Authenticity. This word was my key ‘take-away’ and probably the word she probably used more than any other, in a wide-ranging but tightly scripted talk so engaging I even forgave use of the word ‘utlising’. Although it didn’t necessarily resonate with my own communications experience, Brock-Doyle extolled the virtues of authenticity at every turn.

A few other initial points I noted.
– If experiences and action lose authenticity, you lose the public.
– Your customers and public have to see and understand what ‘great’ looks like and what you stand for.
– There has to be a deep understanding of vision and what you want to deliver.
– The one thing everyone bought into around 2012 was the vision to unite.

On strong vision

London 2012 undeniably created a 'good feeling' buzz far and wide.

London 2012 undeniably created a ‘good feeling’ buzz far and wide.

Jackie Brock-Doyle spoke memorably of how strong vision inspires people and makes people get up in the morning, citing John F Kennedy’s 1961 NASA mission. That goal there was to successfully land on the moon and return astronauts safely to earth safely: a clear and honest ambition.

A comparison was drawn between a NASA Janitor and her much celebrated 2012 games-makers. The Janitor said his part in landing men on the moon was showing astronauts they were cared for in providing a clean toilet. As with the games-makers, whose job it was to show all spectators that they were cared for. Everyone needed to understand the journey.

Throughout this, the public needs to be inspired and motivated in joining in, which is where technology plays a key role. How well you use technology is now a game-changer for business authenticity, according to Brock-Doyle.

This led to a numbers-based section on social media, although the talk remained rigidly non-visual throughout. It was revealed that the most tweeted event across the whole of London 2012 was not Mo Farah, not Usain Bolt, not Jessica Ennis, but the appearance of the Spice Girls during the closing ceremony.

On intangible assets

  • Advocates must become fans, internally and externally
  • Protect and enhance your brand to drive authenticity
  • If you are not true to vision / purpose, you will be found out
  • Intangible assets are sources of advantage, the most valuable and most vulnerable.

I would suggest that in traditional sales-driven industries and SME environments it is not always easy to convince C-Level staff of this, people who speak strictly in a business language of turnover, profit and bottom lines.

On relationships

Relationships, partnerships and humans are important but you must exercise care because the wrong relationships and partners are also damaging. For consumers, love and loyalty follows authenticity, turning advocates into fans.

On policy

Good communications follows good policy. The attitude of ‘go on love, make it fly’ following questionable or careless policymaking, can be dangerous and ill-conceived.

On social media content

– Most content is (to put it politely) ‘rubbish’ .
– It has to be relevant. Stand out. Be different / be brave.

I could not agree more with both these points. There is an astonishing amount of drivel out there, which makes it harder than ever to stand out. Having social media juggernauts like London 2012 must be helpful, but you still need the ideas and commitment.

While it was conceded in the later Q&A session that in future, things would probably go wrong with social media use, Brock-Doyle said that this should be accepted, and people should be allowed to apologise. Because they will be forgiven. It should never be forgotten that in empowering people to communicate, social media is a good thing.

But, I wonder, really a more good thing than a bad thing? In the context of trolling, bullying, terrorism, gruesome ISIS videos. There’s a debate to be had.

On engagement

If there is corporate skills shortage, its core is the difficulty in engaging consumers. Together with the fickleness of consumer behaviour, is a lack of corporations actively listening or being believable. In order to build authentic brands, the engagement deficit needs to be engaged and a common purpose found.

On 3G research

The talk was used to promote a new research white paper just released Brock-Doyle’s Good Relations Group about brands. Entitled ‘Triple G’ it explores The Brands Consumers Really Love, And Why, using the three Gs – which all stand for Good.

Good Actions – what they do when nobody else is looking
Good Recommendations – how well they communicate and listen to their consumers
Good Engagement – how strongly respondents were prepared to recommend the brand to friends, family and colleagues

16 UK brands were awarded ‘Triple G’ in 2014. Quality, Respect and Relevance being the three common traits.

Like Jackie Brock-Doyle’s lecture, the research is quite Good and can be downloaded here. How about a sequel entitled ‘G-forces’?

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