Rashford Scores in a Year When Authenticity Emerged as a Key Trend in the Communications Industry.
At the start of this month, PR Week announced the UK Communicators of the Year 2020. From sporting stars to campaigners; from business leaders to politicians. The list honours those who have risen in prominence or significantly enhanced their reputations due, at least in part, to their comms skill.
PR Week explains, “professionals are excluded – instead the focus is individuals from other walks of life, whether that's politics, entertainment, business, or something else.” (PRWeek)
The worthy winner was Marcus Rashford, who has become one of Twitter’s most talked about celebrities of 2020. Not because of his fancy footwork on the football field or slick celebrity endorsements, but because of his tireless commitment to a cause close to his heart, the eradication of child hunger.
“The Manchester United star is the toast of the UK's lobbying industry after his effective and heartfelt campaign to extend a free school meals voucher scheme for vulnerable children in England prompted a Government U-turn.” (Arvind Hickman)
What can we learn from the Communicator of the Year 2020?
We might not all be football superstars campaigning for nationwide change, but most of us recognise the value of strong communication skills in our work roles and even in our social groups and our families. We may have learned to talk and read and write, but do we really know how to communicate?
If you ask Google how to communicate well, you will be bombarded with lists of must have qualities. However, if we look at Marcus Rashford, we can identify 3 key steps that may help us all become better communicators.
1.Know your audience
If you want to be a good communicator, think about the person or group receiving the communication. Think about what matters to them and how best you can get your message to them and how best to say it so that they can grasp what you say and share your passion for it.
Rashford seems to have the knack for getting his message just right. He can put families in need at ease and make them believe that he really cares yet he can speak to MPs and the Prime Minister with an authority on the issue that he cares about so passionately.
He may have comms experts beavering away in the background to help craft his messaging (does that sound a bit cynical?) but no one can deny that Rashford has a skill for building a connection with everyone he meets. No one can fail to be touched by his clear passion and authentic care.
2.Stick to key messages
Key messages are the core messages which you want your audience to hear and remember. We can never assume that people will just “get” what we are trying to say. Key messages should be well thought out, short and clear. Rashford has one key message that will forever be connected to his name and he repeats it often “End Child Hunger.” This message is so simple that no one can be in doubt to what Rashford’s goal is (see what I did there??).
Even when Rashford delivered his petition to government, he kept the message clear and simple in line with the National Food Strategy:
Expand access to Free School Meals
Provide meals and activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger
Increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start Scheme.
So, if you want to communicate well, take a lead from Rashford and repeat key messages over again until they stick.
I have heard it said, “people don’t care how much you know unless they know how much you care” and this is how Rashford really won UK Communicator of the Year 2020.
He comes across as a genuine young man and an all-round top bloke. As a successful footballer, Rashford could have spent lockdown cosied away in a mansion with all the home comforts and luxuries you could ever imagine. Instead he has tirelessly campaigned for vulnerable children and families in poverty.
Rashford has used his fame to focus the spotlight on a very worthy cause. He hasn’t just campaigned with words on social media or by doing a promotional production, rather he has backed up his words with actions like visiting families to hear their stories or visiting foodbanks to help lift boxes and push trollies. Crucially, he has shared this own experiences of hardship endured as a child to project empathy and give authority to his argument.
He has committed his time, money and energy and has promised that he won’t stop until no child goes hungry. This kind of compassion, resilience and authenticity is rare in such a young man and that is why so many have taken notice of his campaign and backed it with great enthusiasm.
Good communication is so much more than an exchange of information, a pretty social media post or a rousing speech. Good communication requires thought, clarity and sharing something of yourself. We can express more in how we live every day with integrity, passion and commitment than we may ever do with clever words or fancy presentations. Just look at Marcus Rashford and he has an MBE to prove it!