Mix Fake and Real, the Palin Way

by cv harquail on October 8, 2008

wolf in herd of sheep People are hungry for authentic leaders and authentic organizations .  Assessing an organization’s authenticity or a candidate’s authenticity is one way that we gauge where to place our trust. To entice people to trust us, we need to make them think the organization is authentic. Sometimes, we may even want to create "Fake Authenticity" in areas where the organization doesn’t have real authenticity.

In the first two posts I’ve written about "Fake Authenticity", I argued that Sarah Palin is a useful role model for organizations. Organizations can  Use Real Authenticity to Establish Fake Authenticity: Sarah Palin shows organizations how.

There are two steps to establishing Fake Authenticity. We already addressed Step 1: 4 ways Palin Creates a Fake "Reality". Now, we move on to Step 2: Mixing fake reality with the truth.

How to Mix Fake and Real

1. Loosen up the Real to make room for the Fake

2. Elevate the Fake to the same status as the Real

1. Loosen up the Real to make room for the Fake

— Make room by enabling more than one interpretation of the characteristics of the organization or the candidate . Let stakeholders have their own understanding of what you mean when you say "Our organization is faith-friendly ", or whatever. Describe the real in ways that let people assume that you and they have the same understanding of what it is. Let people read into your ‘real’ statements whatever they want. This way, should you ever disappoint them, you can always argue that it was their fault for misinterpreting you– you have been portraying yourself honestly.

palin press — Make room by describing yourself/your organization and your values in vague terms. Terms that are general, abstract, and ambiguous make it easy for stakeholders to agree with you. For example, it’s easier for people to agree that you "support equal pay" than it is for them to agree with your actual voting record  on equal pay legislation.

Vague terms and abstractions seem to communicate your beliefs or your plans without actually offering information that stakeholders can evaluate. Plus, the more vague you are, the harder it is to verify whether what you say is true. The lack of actual information offered combined with the difficulty of verifying your claims makes it easier for people to overlook the details and facts that are required for a data-based evaluation.

Remember:  Abstractions make it easy to agree, generalities make it hard for people to hold you accountable.  Emphasize both.

— Categorize your real and fake attributes with a broad label that’s so attractive, no one thinks to ask if it’s accurate. People are drawn to broad, attractive claims. They’ll think you’re great if you say you want to "save the planet" and "stand up for freedom", and they won’t even notice if you are unwilling to fund research in wind power or refuse to pressure the Saudis to let women drive.

A great example of broad and attractive label is "Maverick ". What does it really take to be a maverick? If you look closely at the definition of a maverick, and then at some of the so-called maverick’s behaviorhmm. Some of the behavior is maverick-y. But the term "maverick" is stretched to accommodate behavior that is all about the status quo- not maverick-y at all.

2. Elevate the Fake to the same status as the Real

— Don’t treat the fake reality as any less important than the real reality. Describe the real and the fake with the same enthusiasm, the same frequency, and in the same venues. If you issue a press release, don’t bold only the verifiable claims– make the fake claims bold too ! If you don’t distinguish between the fake and the real when you present yourself, stakeholders might forget to parse out any distinctions between where you are really and where you are fake.

mirror segments woman –Put the real and the fake next to each other, so that the fake benefits from the halo of the real. Consider what happened during the debate when Palin offered a most genuine moment, when she talked about her children, her brother and education. She’s a "strong believer in home schooling, virtual schools, and other innovative education options" and many viewers could feel that there was substance behind her claims about the importance of education. Our desire to see authenticity is so strong that, when we get a glimpse of it– even if it’s next to a bunch of inauthenticity–  our desire to resolve our cognitive dissonance in a positive way helps us gloss over what isn’t so real.

Putting it all together….

Use Real Authenticity to Create Fake Authenticity:

Step One: Create a Fake Reality
— Craft a good story
— Prepare thoroughly, offstage,
— Work your message
— Act like you believe your story

Step Two:  Mix the Fake Reality with the Real
— Loosen up the Real to make room for the Fake
— Elevate the Fake to the same status as the Real

Combine real substance with good fiction and offer this mix to an audience that desperately wants to believe in someone or some organization "like" you, and you might look authentic enough to entice their trust in you.

For a while, at least.

What is true?

What is true matters less that what people believe is true. Similarly, what is authentic matters less than what people think is authentic.

Cynical as it seems,  "truth" is what seems "real", not what is real. While we might be saddened when what seems authentic is treated as though it were authentic, we ignore reality at at our peril.

reality was truth once

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