Wednesday 5 June 2013

James Caan failed the authenticity test

Yesterday I listened to Dragons' Den TV star, entrepreneur, businessmen and now government social mobility tsar James Caan speak eloquently as to why he thought parents should not give their children a leg-up when trying to secure their first job.

He put together a sound argument and spoke well during an interview with BBC Radio 4's Today programme - one of the toughest gigs around.

As someone who at school was advised I could work in either one of the banks in town or for a rural estate agency - expanding my horizon was not encouraged - I can see where he was coming from.

Today he is trending on Twitter and the subject of quite a bit of negative coverage after it emerged that he had employed both his daughters. In contrast to yesterday's positive morning media, today he was batting away claims of nepotism and hypocrisy.

In simple terms James Caan was telling us all to do one thing when he himself does something different but in communication terms it is a question of authenticity.

Someone like Caan, who is a self-made millionaire, is exactly the kind of person who should be seen as an inspiration to young people.

When he tells the story about how his parents encouraged him to find his own way in life and how this helped him to succeed he is telling the truth. Or at least the evidence he provides is enough for us to believe what he says. But that isn't enough. His experiences as a young man are overshadowed as his message to parents does not match with his own experience so, in the eyes of the public, he is no longer authentic.

There is a lesson here for anyone wanting to influence people whether in business or politics in that the truth matters but sometimes being seen to be authentic is just as important.

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