Royal reflections show doing what’s right beats doing what looks right

Events of the past week provided an opportunity for collective reflection, whatever your views on the monarchy.

I felt unexpectedly emotional and uncertain about the Queen’s passing. There is some personal context. I turned 47 on Sunday and have come through a tough couple of years. The last thing we needed was more uncertainty. But despite the madness happening around us, I start the week feeling optimistic about the future.

I’ve been saddened and moved, without approaching anything near full on ‘mourning’. It was strange stepping away from blanket media coverage and online discourse about a ‘nation in grief’ to see people having coffees, travelling to meetings and getting on with their lives.

Good comms, bad comms

I’ve supported clients’ communications whilst looking on in bemusement as some brands showed ‘respect’ in weird ways that caused a stink. On Twitter, @GrieveWatch provided some light relief by sharing the dafter examples of ‘respect’.

Many comms people (once again) provided sound advice during the mourning period. They helped organisations strike the right balance between respecting those affected by the Queen’s death whilst recognising that many will not be. They advised against anything too promotional and put events and campaigns on hold. And, yes, if they had been in the room at the time, they would have said that kicking paying customers off site for a day isn’t ‘respectful’.  

As the Queen’s funeral approached, the gap between what I’m seeing and the media narrative has narrowed. After years of backbiting and division, here we are feeling and speaking as one, right? Or, at least, we’re giving people space to express their views without trashing them for it.

I take heart from how so many people joined this conversation. They used words like ‘dignified’, ‘duty’ and ‘constant’ repeatedly. Many saying this did not know the Queen. This highlights the strength of a narrative supported by an enduring truth.

It also points to something we seem to have lost. And it all stands in stark contrast to how we see today’s political and business leaders.  

What is right Vs what looks right  

I’ve thought about the tangle Centre Parcs’ leadership team got into when triangulating over their disastrous ‘mark of respect’ that saw paying guests initially told they would need to stay elsewhere during the funeral.

The last two years have battered the tourism sector. Costs are up, income is down and there’s a squeeze on staff. But Center Parcs’ framing their decision to close as a ‘mark of respect’ looked ridiculous and damaged their reputation.

Meanwhile, leaders who grasp that there is a better way to do things are blazing a trail. The public will sniff out those who cling onto the status quo and default to spin when things get tough. It’s not before time.

Doing what is right, rather than what looks right, should be the default option for organisations who want to be trusted.  

Navigating uncertainty

The country leaves the Elizabethan era in an uncertain and challenged state. Recession looms large, fuelled by inflation, a huge trade deficit and a tanking pound.

We can expect big announcements this week on tax cuts and measures to protect households and businesses from rocketing energy bills. I hope the measures make a difference, but we need to do more than throw money at a systemic problem.

With a new government and head of state in place, it’s a good time also to ask hard questions about a ‘business as usual’ approach that’s failing on so many levels.

How are we going to fix this crisis by working together better? Are we ready to listen to and understand different points of view? Will we own our mistakes and strive to learn from them? Can people stop slagging each other off?

If we can’t, then what’s the last week been for? We can use it to take a week out, say nice things and go on as before. Or we can apply those behaviours spoken about with such sincerity since the Queen’s death to how we do things.

Commentators have said plenty about the Queen presiding over a period of decline for the UK. It’s easy as someone who didn’t support Brexit to adopt this mindset. We are much too unequal as a country. Our infrastructure and public services are creaking.

But we also have fantastic qualities that hold the key to our future success. Our culture, values, universities, creative industries and heritage are to be prized. We must take greater care of them.

While the future is unclear, we stand at a point where we can choose to do the right thing and eschew spin.

I’m fine with that and look forward to working with others who want the same.

Image is from the UK Government’s Flickr account.