Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Media Coach 26th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Inspiring speakers; A long run; Richie Havens; A short media career; Spring clean your speech; Get the timing right; E M Forster has a lot to answer for; An interview with Robin Speculand; Music from The B of the Bang

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Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Media Coach 19th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; The Boston Marathon bombing; Virtually in Abu Dhabi; Dove real beauty; Happy the goldfish; Speaking - it’s a con trick; Toughing it out; Beware the Autotweet; An interview with Adam Clarkson of Holler; Music from Amy Campbell

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Monday, April 15, 2013

Justin Bieber - the boy in his own bubble

Justin Bieber's tour of Europe has attracted plenty of publicity, but it's been far from positive. There was the anger and upset of many UK fans after he appeared on stage so late that many of the audience had already left. Then there was a confrontation with photographers in London, then his pet monkey was put under quarantine in Germany, then school exams were rescheduled in Portugal and Norway because of the timing of his shows....the list goes on.

The latest faux pas has been caused by his comments in the guest book at the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. Mr Bieber wrote; "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”

Like millions of others, I have also visited the Anne Frank House and been deeply moved by her story. Seeing the tiny space in which she and her family hid for years from the German occupiers, only to be captured and killed just before the war ended, brings home the tragedy of the Second World War. Mr Bieber was clearly affected by his visit, but sadly managed to define his feelings in terms of his own fame. 

There's little doubt that Mr Bieber's fans will care little for the way in which he summed up his experience. For them, he can do no wrong. However, the impression that he is wrapped up in his own publicity bubble is growing. Perhaps he feels that controversy sells. Maybe he's just badly advised. Maybe he just needs to think a little bit harder about the impact of his behaviour and his words. 

Picture credit: By Joe Bielawa  Uploaded by MyCanon (Justin Bieber) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, April 12, 2013

Ding, dong, the witch is banned (well, partly)

Well, well, the BBC has got itself into a proper tangle over whether to play "Ding dong, the witch is dead", now standing at number three in the charts after a campaign to demonstrate feelings about the recently deceased Baroness Thatcher. An uneasy compromise has been announced by the Beeb, with a "clip" of the song being played as part of a "news item". Since the song is only fifty-one seconds long anyway, a clip may well go un-noticed.

It's easy to understand the offence that could be caused by playing the song, before a funeral has even taken place. It's hardly a precedent, since in years past, BBC has banned a number of tracks, including "Give Ireland back to the Irish" by Wings, "God Save the Queen" by the Sex Pistols, and even "Boom bang-a-bang" by diminutive popster Lulu, which was removed from airplay during the first Gulf War.

Of course, times change, and almost all of the songs once banned by the BBC are now played on a regular basis. However, censorship has always been arbitrary. For example, it's hard to understand how songs like "Walk on the Wild Side" by Lou Reed escaped the censors, other than they presumably had no idea what "giving head" meant.

Is the BBC's muddled solution the correct one? Since it will probably attract complaints from both sides, it may be seen as maintaining impartiality. In a few months time, the whole thing will have been forgotten, and people will be wondering what was all the fuss about a song from the 1930s that lasts less than a minute, and has no rude words in it.

I suspect that Baroness Thatcher herself would have been highly amused by the affair. She never shirked controversy, and even seemed to thrive on it. Any wicked witch would have stood no chance against her.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Media Coach 12th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week; Legacy (it’s a theme); Margaret Thatcher; The Olympics; David Mellor; A sorry bunch of Cher fans; Leave a lasting impression; That’s not what you said before; Your social media footprints don’t fade; An interview with Darren Lacroy; Music from Simon Kirke

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Monday, April 08, 2013

Margaret Thatcher has died. What is her legacy?

It's just been announced that Baroness Thatcher, former leader of the Conservative party and Conservative Prime Minister, has died following a stroke. She is undoubtedly one of the iconic political figures of the last century. Her reputation was global, and her legacy will be long-lasting. How will history view her?

The former grocer's daughter from Grantham will undoubtedly be listed alongside the likes of Winston Churchill and Tony Blair as someone who affected a nation. While Churchill's legacy is strongly positive, Mrs Thatcher's is far more mixed. She gave rise to a noun - "Thatcherism" as a result of her economic strategy, the effects of which are still felt to this day.

To many, she is seen as the saviour of modern Britain. To others, she was someone so focused on her ideology that the damage done by her policies ran deep.

Politics apart, from my point of view as a media commentator, she was one of the best interviewees ever. She always got her point across, regardless of the impertinent questions of her interlocutors. With her PR guru, Lord Bell, she planned many an ambush on policies she disagreed with, such as laying her handkerchief across the tails of model planes painted in the new British Airways livery.

Her funeral will be a huge public event - probably the largest political funeral since Winston Churchill's in the sixties. I shall bid her a fond farewell, not because I agreed with every one of her policies, but as an admirer of her fortitude, courage and powerful communication style.

We shall not see her like again for many a long year.

Picture Credit: By work provided by Chris Collins of the Margaret Thatcher Foundation (Margaret Thatcher Foundation) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Twitter doesn't love Paris in the springtime.

A Twitter storm has been raging over the appointment of 17-year-old Paris Brown as as Britain’s first Youth Police and Crime Commissioner. She's only a few days into her £15,000 a year post, yet, her competence has been questioned by national newspapers and thousands of Twitter users. 

The problem has been caused by tweets that she sent between the ages of 14 and 16, which have been described as offensive, homphobic and drug-related. There's little doubt that the language she used was strong, and the comments very direct, but should she's still very young, and has offered a full apology. 

I suspect that if the social media feeds of most young teenagers were analysed, it would be easy to find something to complain about. The question is, should the sorts of daft things that teenagers say be held against them in future? In another more adult sphere, John O'Farrell, the Labour candidate in the recent Eastleigh by-election, was pilloried for a statement he made about Margaret Thatcher many years ago.

In matters of reputation, public judgement always comes into play. What matters is whether people have enough support to ride out the storm, or whether their past behaviour will forever make them "damaged goods". A quick and heartfelt apology always helps, but at the end of the day, it's the opinion of the people they serve that matters. Will they be able to do their job in future, and will people have confidence in them? It looks to me as though the pressure to remove Miss Brown has reached such a peak that it will be hard for her to remain in post, despite the support of her sponsor.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Delivering a speech? Finish big.

The closing line of your speech may be the one thing that members of your audience remember as they leave the hall. It's critically important that you deliver it well, and that the content is spot-on. Ideally, it should mirror your opening line, and provide exactly what you promised at the start of your speech.
What are the essential elements of a good close?. I think they include some or most of these:
  • Indicate that you are about to finish ("and in conclusion")
  • Re-state your core message
  • Refer back to the start of your speech
  • Use the word "you"
  • Call your audience to action
  • Deliver a ringing phrase
  • Use an analogy ("just as Churchill said")
  • Use a quote
  • Say simply "Thank you"
  • Stay on stage and take the applause

Here's how Winston Churchill did it on June 18th 1940: "But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, 'This was their finest hour.'"

Picture Credit: Alan Stevens 

Thursday, April 04, 2013

The Media Coach 5th April 2013

Hints and tips for media appearances, speaking and social media. This week: Fascists and football; Bonkers Barking; The Mobile Phone at 40; George, innit?; Finish  Big; How Local News Works; Do I need video?; An interview with Derek Arden; Music from the Lost Hollow Band

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Wednesday, April 03, 2013

It's economics, innit? George Osborne goes Mockney.

George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, was at in Kent yesterday making a speech about welfare reform. He was speaking to workers from Morrison's supermarket at one of their regional distribution centres. A standard political set-piece event, staged mainly for the six o'clock news. But something strange happened to his voice. Instead of his clipped and somewhat posh accent, he said "wanna', "Briddish" and dropped many a "T" from his words. It was quite bizarre, like hearing Prince Charles trying to rap.

What was he thinking? The answer is that he probably wasn't. Changing our speech pattern in different environments is something most of us do. It's known as communication accommodation, and is a well-documented phenomenon. It's particularly noticeable in people whose accents have changed after living a long way from their birthplace, who suddenly revert to their original tones when speaking to friends and family who stayed put.

For most people, it's not a problem, since it's often not noticed, or seen as being "just one of those things". For a politician, however, it's much more of an issue. If Mr Osborne is regarded as deliberately changing his accent to appeal to a certain group, it can be seen as false (an attribute many people associate with politicians anyway). It would be sensible for him, and other politicians, to make a conscious effort to keep the same accent at all times. I'm sure his advisors will have pointed this out to the Chancellor, and I suspect we won't hear him doing it again. Funny old world, innit?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Once a fascist, always a fascist? The Di Canio conundrum

Sunderland football club has captured a lot of headlines today, but not for their performance on the pitch. That, of course will come as no surprise to the diehard Mackems this season, who are undergoing a trying time. To add to their woes, the appointment of a new manager, with just a handful of games until the end of the premiership season has given them the sort of publicity they didn't want.

There's no doubt that Paolo Di Canio is (or was) an incredibly gifted footballer, capable of acts of breathtaking skill on the pitch. There's also no doubt that  he's also committed some bizarre acts both on and off the pitch that also take one's breath away. He's what's known as a "character", which is often another way of saying "I'm glad he's not in our team". 

The problem for many people with his appointment is his declaration of fascist sympathies. He wrote in his autobiography about his views on the former Italian fascist leader, Benito Mussolini; "I think he was a deeply misunderstood individual. He deceived people. His actions were often vile. But all this was motivated by a higher purpose. He was basically a very principled individual.” Mr Di Canio has also said that his own views are "fascist, not racist", which probably comes as little comfort to those trying to defend his reputation, which was also damaged by his delivery of a straight-arm fascist salute in Rome in 2005 after he scored for Lazio against bitter local rivals Roma. 

Since then, he's managed Swindon Town, with barely a raised eyebrow in the media, though the local GMB union withdrew their financial support for the club. So why is there such a media furore now over his views? It's partly timing, since Easter is a quiet time for news. It's partly, with all due respect to Swindon Town, that Sunderland is a higher profile club. It's partly that David Milliband has resigned from the club's board in protest (though presumably his departure for New York would have meant his departure was imminent anyway). But mostly, I think, it's because Paolo Di Canio himself attracts (one might even say courts) publicity.

The issue for most Mackems, I suspect, is not his political views, but whether he can keep the club in the premiership. There are some, a few of whom were on the radio today, who believe that his appointment is wrong, regardless of the outcome. In a day or two, I suspect the storm over his political past will blow away, and matters on the pitch will take precedence. But for now, I would urge Mr Di Canio to keep his hands firmly in his pockets.

Picture Credit: Wikipedia, Creative Commons Licence

Monday, April 01, 2013

Speakers urgently required for research project to debunk Mehrabain fallacy

I'm working with a Swedish academic, Professor Olof Lirpa, who is putting forward the opposite theory to the Mehrabian fallacy. Professor Lirpa maintains that 93% of communication is words, and is seeking volunteer speakers to help him test the theory. He's setting up a series of TOD talks (Totally Oral Delivery), where the speaker will either be in darkness, behind a screen, or facing an audience with their backs towards them. He's also trying out different accents and pitches.

So if you're interested (no fee, but you will aid useful research), and you can speak in different accents, or in high-pitched or basso profundo tone, Professor Lirpa would love to hear from you. His need is urgent, so contact me by the end of today, and I will put you in touch. Many thanks.