Category: Tips & Hints

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

It is not common enough; the Chief Executive of a company apologises, and apologises in a way that seems genuine. Nowadays, how often does this happen in the corporate and political worlds? Aggressive business leaders, and overly-confident politicians appear to be the common currency. So, here it is again, the Uber CEO apology, . Aside from the important debate over Uber’s ways of operating, from a crisis communications perspective this is effective. It’s about admitting fault and taking responsibility. These seem to be major hurdles for corporates amid a crisis. Ok, so it’s not clear what exactly the CEO is apologising for, but at least it is a sign of some humility and a good start as Uber unfurls its crisis communication plan.

Showcase return on investments

It’s about demonstrating a return on investments. Nowadays, everyone is potentially a journalist. Mobile phones enable us to film what’s happening before us and record decent sound (if you know what you’re doing). This is a blessing and a curse. For the development sector, it’s terrific. It means showing your results, of ‘aid in action’, improving lives of the more vulnerable has never been easier. The costs of gathering multimedia content have been drastically reduced. This is especially helpful for smaller non-governmental organisations (NGOs), who sometimes believe it is harder for them to cut through when they are competing in a crowded campaigning space alongside much larger organisations. It all means smaller NGOs can more easily punch above their weight, especially if their programmes are community-focussed, which is not always the case for larger organisations, including the UN sector. So, showcase results of ‘aid in action’, of when aid is making an impact and improving the lives of the more vulnerable. Interestingly, more and more journalists in diverse media markets are calling for exactly this; proof of aid working. No longer are they wowed by large donations in the development sector. The first question is often: “Can you take me to a community where I can interview those who are benefitting from these large donations?”.  It’s all about demonstrating a return on investments.

The challenge posed by data

The use of figures, or data, in media interviews and public speaking is increasingly contentious. The first point, of course, is that any data referred to must be accurate. This, in itself, has become a hot topic. Data can be misused. Then, once we know a piece of data is accurate there is the need to make sure your data makes sense, or resonates, with your target public(s). Too, too often, data is banded around in a way that is meaningless. Simply quoting million or billions of something doesn’t actually mean much to most people. You have to make sure your figures hit home. How do you do this? Recent thinking is providing us with new ways of offering up key data. The need to know how to do this is of premium importance. This became abundantly clear in our most recent media training course with public health advocates drawn from across the world. How often do you use data and how do you serve up data? Big questions now being answered.

Muscle memory

It was fascinating to analyse a #MelindaGates interview on BBC Radio with public health advocates on our  recent ’20secondsmedia’ media training & public speaking course in Amsterdam. Among the many elements that became abundantly clear in her performance was the power of muscle memory. She had, of course, worked hard overtime to remember key messages. Hence, during a challenging series of exchanges with the interviewer,  who tried on many occasions to induce her to criticise D Trump and the Pope, she never wavered. She kept bridging back into her key messages and hammered them home. It was a performance that drew heavily on instinct; those key messages about child mortality absorbed in her muscle memory. It shows that effective, polished public speaking, like high-level musical and sports performance, is the work of many years of hard work. You drill, and drill, techniques and allow them to seep into the memory. Even if your mind goes blank, the muscle memory will rarely let you down.

Points on communication…

What follows here could be said to be statement of the obvious, however, on an almost daily basis too few people ‘get’ these points. How many times have you heard mention of an organisation producing a report – with what can only be honestly referred to as a vague purpose or objective behind it? So here goes – a quick and dirty list of some of the starter questions to be posed when wanting to communicate with a target public, or publics: why do we want to reach out to a specific target public; what are our objectives in communicating (call to action, awareness-raising…..); where does our target public gather its information & which sources are trusted (big questions & yes – this can mean bespoke research); what is the preferred communication channel (some people eschew the digital domain & prefer a traditional hand-written note…); what form of language do we use – informal, formal…we avoid jargon and acronyms; should we use multimedia and avoid the written word (is it possible that in years to come some folks will build their information universe solely from video and images?)…..and so on? To use the old cliche; if I had five pounds/dollars/euros for every time someone waffled on somewhat vacuously when I asked why they had produced their new report & who they were targetting, I would be a wealthy chap……