Friday, June 19, 2009

Is it the medium or the message?

Marsahll McLuhan was wrong, in my opinion, when he said "The medium is the message". OK, he may have been right at the time (1967), but he's been quoted so many times since, his phrase is regarded as a truism.

These days, many people (me included at times, to be honest) are focusing on tools like Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Ecademy, and many others. There are races to get large numbers of friends or followers, or a campaign to get only "quality contacts".

There are many experts, including some of my good friends in here, who are helping people to learn how to use these tools. They're doing a good job too.

But I'm increasingly feeling that there's something missing. Having gazillions of followers, or being linked to global communities of potential customers, is all well and good. However, you need to be able to offer them something they need, in a way that they appreciate.

There seems to be very little focus on the message right now. Knowing how to use the tools is no use unless you have the right message.

Don't get so busy using the tools that you forget what you do.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Gordon Brown - is it just a communication issue?

With one bound he was free. Well, free for a while. Gordon Brown escaped relatively unscathed from his meeting with the Parliamentary Labour Party last night. However, some of the MPs who were at the meeting have emerged to tell the press that "Gordon will be changing his presentation style". Well I never. He's been in politics for most of his life, reached the highest office in the land,and it now appears that his presentation skills don't pass muster. His fellow MPs seem to think that better communication is the answer.

As a professional speaker, I look at speeches with a critical eye. There's no doubt that Gordon Brown is not a great orator. Comparisons are always invidious, but Barack Obama has won justified praise for his speeches and delivery. Unlike many of the great orators of the past, he often uses an autocue, and is still not completely comfortable "off script", but he's head and shoulders above Gordon.

The prime-minister-in-waiting, David Cameron, is a reasonable speaker, and I'd place him somewhere between Brown and Obama. Cameron's famous "no notes" speech to the Conservative Party Conference a couple of years ago was actually a piece of clever TV editing by the local director (every time there was a cutaway to the audience, Cameron consulted his notes). Nonetheless, his style is much better suited to delivering a message than Brown's.

Politics apart, Brown is a poor speaker. But I don't think communication training can save him now.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Susan Boyle - victim or heroine?

Like a third of the UK population, I watched the final of "Britain's Got Talent" on Saturday night. The eventual winners, Diversity, probably came as a bit of a shock to the organisers, as evidenced by Sunday's press conference at the headquarters of Sony Music. Clearly, they were expecting a singer. According to reports on the BBC, Simon Cowell did not appear at the press conference.

The story of Susan Boyle has generated astonishing publicity, showing how social media can now spread fame far and wide in an instant, particularly when combined with a rags-to-riches story. However, instant fame can also disappear instantly. It looks as though Susan is caught up in a media whirlpool that has left her senses reeling. I'm not in the least surprised that she needs to take a few days out of the limelight.

Far be it from this old hack to sniff a PR stunt. However, the headlines on the UK papers today are about Susan Boyle, not Diversity. As I write this, she is top of the trending topics on Twitter. When she emerges from her sojourn in hospital, I suspect her fame will be enhanced. Provided she can cope with the publicity roller-coaster, and is treated sensitively by her PR minders, her story will run and run.