Why Jon Stewart is Worthy of My Communication Aspirations

Where were you when you heard the news that Jon Stewart was leaving The Daily Show?


For many, like me, it’s one of those historic moments when shocking news hits us like a punch in the belly.


Because his fans ADORE him!

And why is he adored?

  • His comedic genius
  • His irreverent and approachable style
  • His honesty in how he filters the news and calls the media out for misrepresenting issues
  • His ability to simplify a message so people can understand it

… just to name a few.

It’s clear that many people crave Jon’s type of reporting to offset the growing distrust of media. A 2014 Gallup Poll showed that “Americans’ confidence in the media’s ability to report ‘the news fully, accurately and fairly’ has returned to its previous all-time low of 40%,” said the poll. It’s reported that about 12% of web using adults watched The Daily Show, in the past week, for political news.

I think there is a similar type of distrust in what many leaders/corporate communicators say within organizations. I’ve heard numerous times that employees feel they are getting the “corporate line” or “spin” in much of the communications they receive. Many believe the message is filtered to only share good news or put a positive spin on bad news.

The timeliness and frequency of communication is criticized as well. The water cooler/grapevine is much more efficient (like social media) and news travels fast. Too often, communicators spend too much time “massaging the message” or delaying because they don’t know ALL the answers. People will fill in the blanks with their own version if you don’t get in front of them with the information you do know and then let them know when they will hear from you again.

Here are some lessons from Jon Stewart I think we can all learn as it relates to communicating effectively:

  • Know your audience and pretend you’re one of them – before you start crafting your message, take a moment to think about the audience. Put yourself in their shoes — what do they care about? What is keeping THEM up at night? How will the communication impact THEM? This will also help in preparation for any open Q&A session you may host!
  • Be straightforward – don’t sugarcoat your message and use a lot of jargon and complicated language. Be crisp, clear and use simple words. When you decrease the mumbo-jumbo, you increase trust and confidence.
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously – be a little irreverent. Acknowledge that some things don’t work as well as desired and lighten up!
  • Demonstrate integrity – your words and actions MUST align. If you don’t have all the answers, admit it. If you make a mistake, admit it. Don’t promote a new policy or process that applies to everyone EXCEPT yourself. Also, if you’ve told people you will be following up with more details, be sure to do so by the date promised!

I know I am in no way as articulate, quick and witty as Jon Stewart! However, I can make sure that I’m communicating in an authentic manner, like he has done over the years and follow some of the simple lessons I learned from watching him.

I’m confident you can too!  You have your own “daily show” to host at work and home so there is plenty of opportunity to practice!

Photo credit: The Daily Show website

Martha Duesterhoft is Partner at PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @mduesterhoft or connect via email at mduesterhoft@people-results.com.