What you can learn from Banksy when communicating and inspiring in a crisis

Woman video calling on her mobile phone

Not everything needs to be a zoom meeting or an email. It is time to get creative when you are now having to work at home, manage a remote team, or deal with unexpected furloughs or redundancies.

Banksy creates excitement and provokes thought. As a street artist whose identity is a mystery, how he engages with his audience provides us with insights that will help anyone improve their ability to communicate and inspire others.

You have eight seconds. 

When talking to Village Magazine, Banksy said he wanted to keep people looking at his artwork for as long as possible. He was shocked by a British museum study that revealed that visitors only looked at paintings for an average of eight seconds. So, he accompanied his New York art installations with a museum-style audio guide you could reach by calling a telephone number to hear more about his piece of art. Attention grabbing, impactful and innovative. How would you communicate differently if you had only eight seconds of attention?

Consider how people learn. 

It is well known people learn in different ways, yet many leaders communicate almost exclusively by email. Banksy, on the other hand, will create a painting, a sculpture or even a truck full of squeaking soft toys–anything to get his message across. Can you record a short audio message, take a picture, relate a story about your pet, child, or recent online shopping experience to get your message across in different ways? I have been hosting leadership events online and I log on with two computers, one facing me, and one facing a blank area that I use as a “show and tell” for magazine articles, a hand written drawing, a picture, or a product that is relevant for my audience. Consider how you can do things differently.

Don’t take yourself seriously. 

Banksy continually ridicules himself and the world of art, including those bidding on his art at Sothebys where a painting shredded itself as soon as the winning bid was placed. Leaders who laugh at themselves create an atmosphere where it is acceptable to be less than perfect. Admit it if you made a mistake when communicating with your boss, share if you sent an email to the wrong audience, tell the story of how you can’t figure out fractions or long division as you try and help your kids with their maths homework. If you can be transparent and authentic and laugh along the way, it takes the pressure off and increases the likelihood your teams will realize you are human too and want to follow your lead.

Little and often works. 

Banksy creates powerful frequent messages, which trump long rambling stories. Leaders should do likewise. When I help leaders develop and communicate their strategy, I often share the advice: why use a paragraph when a sentence will do, why use a sentence when a word will do. No-one will ever thank you for being verbose!

Banksy’s messages get through. But what about your communications? There is a communication sieve that they fall through. Consider your latest email that you sent:

  1. How many people opened it?
  2. How many read all the way to the end?
  3. How many asked questions to check they really understood what you meant?

Finally, you have to ask whether your recipients truly understood and really believed what you shared with them. Consider the next 30 days and create a unique message for your employees each day.  A picture, a sculpture, a song, a short video or an audio recording.  This is not the equivalent of a cheesy pointless team-building event that causes everyone to roll their eyes, but a way to create your own campaign to help your employees get inside your head and the vision for your company.

Val WrightAbout the author

Val Wright is a US based innovation and leadership consultant and author of Rapid Growth, Done Right (published by Kogan Page, May 2020). She has worked with clients including Starbucks, LinkedIn, Microsoft, the Financial Times and the LA Lakers and is a regular contributor to CNBC Inc, Fox Business News, Business Insider, Fast Company, MSN, Reuters, the LA Times.



If you are a job seeker or someone looking to boost their career, then WeAreTheCity has thousands of free career-related articles. From interview tips, CV advice to training and working from home, you can find all our career advice articles here

Related Posts