Archive for the 'Media Training' Category
Neil Evans is Senior Partner and Creative Director of Vivid London.
Image by Anisha Chandarana, Junior Design Staff at Vivid London.
Well, it was his words not mine…. Gordon Brown appears to have today been caught in what must surely be the political cock-up of his premiership. Forget the usual parliamentary skullduggery, no this comes down to a simple mistake, a microphone left on.
When Mr Brown awoke this morning I am willing to bet he had no idea that such a bad day lay before him, and frankly the day began well. When Gordon got to Rochdale, he engaged in a ‘friendly chat’ with some local voters, one of whom was 65 year old retiree Gillian Duffy, a lifelong Labour supporter. She grilled the PM, not unfairly it must be added, on issues such as taxes, pensions and immigration – issues that mattered to her. The debate seemed fair and balanced, with both sides putting forward valid arguments. That is until Gordon Brown departed the scene. Upon setting foot inside his Jaguar campaign car, he immediately labeled the exchange a “disaster”, before going on to launch an angry attack on both Gillian Duffy, labeling her a “bigot”; and his staff, for allowing her to speak to him.
What Gordon Brown evidently did not know is that the lapel microphone he was wearing (which incidently his own party had insisted upon) was still on, and broadcasting exactly what he was saying live and direct to Sky News. Matters weren’t exactly helped when about half an hour later he appeared on BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine Show to talk about the incident, only to not know he was also being filmed. Whilst Brown may have been trying to sound optimistic, the visual showed a defeated, tired and broken figure, clearly frustrated by the day’s events.
As I write this, Mr Brown has just emerged from within Gillian Duffy’s house, possibly after being on his knees begging for forgiveness: after all, this is an election campaign.
I am at least slightly impressed that both he and the Labour party in general have managed to turn this incident around from occurrence to personal visit and apology in under four hours.
That said, he really should have known better. The other candidates, and their parties, will no doubt be watching this with great interest for the obvious political benefit it will give them, but also no doubt be breathing a sigh of relief that they didn’t make the same mistake themselves.
PR Lesson No. 1, Mr Brown – the mic is always on. Yes, you thought you were in private, and yes, you’re entitled to your opinion – but the mic was attached (which your probably by now ex-press secretary should have told you). And when it’s attached, it’s always on – especially if you want to call one of your voters a ‘bigot’.
Tags: Chelsea, Daniel Levy, Darren Bent, Darren Fletcher, Football, John Terry, Manchester United, Ryan Giggs, Social Media, Social Media Guidelines, Sunderland United, Tottenham Hotspur, Twitter, Wayne Rooney
Manchester United, the world’s largest and most financially successful football club, has come under fire in recent weeks for tightening its public relations policy, particularly in regard to direct player/media relations. In real-world terms, this basically means that as a club, Manchester United are restricting, or completely eradicating their players’ social media activity.
Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs and Darren Fletcher all had high profile and regularly active Twitter accounts, and whilst nothing particularly revelatory was gleaned from these by the worlds media, they were nevertheless shut down.
Manchester United even went as far as drafting a statement that simply read: “The club wishes to make it clear that no Manchester United players maintain personal profiles on social networking websites. Fans encountering any web pages purporting to be written by United players should treat them with extreme scepticism.”
This only added to the suspicion that the club itself had acted to restrict its own players freewill. Of course, at this point it must be asked – What spooked Manchester United enough to carry out this rather extreme action? The answer to that lies with Sunderland United and England Striker, Darren Bent. In July 2009, Bent was negotiating a transfer from his then-club Tottenham Hotspur to Sunderland United. During these negotiations, Bent used his Twitter account to criticise Tottenham’s chairman. Daniel Levy for delaying the process, as well as openly tweeting to his followers the exact details of the negotiations. Bent eventually signed for £10million.
Larger clubs, however, took note. Manchester United’s management chose to take the action of effectively gagging all of its players, by insisting that they delete their various official Twitter and Facebook profiles so that it could handle effectively control its PR message.
But maybe they’ve missed a trick here. From a business perspective the club may have done the right thing, rather than let an individual potentially (even unwittingly) reveal the clubs inner workings and secrets. They have taken the matter into their own hands. To the outside world, this move appears like an overreaction and seems intrusive, as it is taking away an individuals’ right to express their opinion by denying them access to that platform. The club should have instead taken over and maintained these accounts, or simply vetted them. That way to, the outside world, their presence is maintained, but it is managed internally.
Some would say that this could be seen as misleading, but I would say that it is simply good business. If anything, the recent events surrounding Chelsea and England defender John Terry have shown that football and indeed all high profile sports teams now more than ever need to manage the PR presence of their stars, because letting them manage their own affairs, could seriously damage their own reputation.
Tony Blair, love him or loathe him, you’ve got to give it to him that he’s still the slickest media operator in modern politics. I’d rate him higher than Barack Obama (who practically walked on water during his campaign) and even higher than David Cameron, who despite a good start is failing to find the balance between serious prime minister in waiting and head of the new fluffy Conservatives.
But what makes Blair such a smooth operator? It’s not that he’s natural at this, his manner, tone, measure and gesture have all been practised until they’ve become second nature. The key to his success has always been this ‘natural’ charm, his relaxed facial features allow him to form words in a clear pattern, his slight wry smile and flash of pearly whites gives him that cheeky trust, and most importantly his ability to mix Prime Minister (and now Statesman) with bloke-you’d-not-mind-sharing-a-pint-with.
The ability to communicate a message isn’t just for politicians, and good media training shouldn’t just be for the most pressured CEOs. It should be a fixture of any part of a business that faces the public or the press. The difference in style – regardless of whether it’s facing you directly or talking to you the customer through the press – is often stark.
An organisation that you feel is genuinely upset at itself because its service toward you has been unsatisfactory, but recognises that it is at fault and, most importantly, takes steps to rectify the situation versus a company that shoves you an unpersonalised note apologising for any inconvenience is huge.
Done well, a message communicated in a genuine fashion will console you and consolidate your faith in a brand. Done badly and it will damage the trust and credibility of the brand every time.
The bottom line in business or politics means that you often can’t take the views of every single customer into hand, and you’re never going to keep every single person happy, but it’s the tone and style of your message to them that counts. So work with your communications people to ensure that what you’re saying not only sounds genuine, but actually carries through to authentic business improvement. Your business will benefit, your brand will benefit and most importantly you’ll build customer trust.