I’m off and running with my first post in the ‘Ditch’, or on the blog.
In the spirit of two-way symmetrical communication (more light on that concept, so crucial to theoretically ‘excellent’ PR’ in a future post), I will admit that the bulk of the idea for this first post was already used over the festive break, as inspiration for encouraging undergraduate PR students at LCC to use the ‘delicious’ social media tool.
It concerns Radio 4’s Today programme, and the rare interview with the creative director of Chanel, Karl Lagerfeld, secured by guest editor and world renowned architect Zaha Hadid. It was fascinating on so many levels, but probably because on a literal level, it broke so many rules of media relations. On so many others – whether it be the idea of storytelling, source credibility, candidness, and because of its exclusivity, it doesn’t seem to matter that it breaks those rules.
The interviewer – Evan Davies – arguably became so fawning, he allowed Lagerfeld to get away with almost anything, and I think any of us would probably have been charmed into similar submission, despite many controversial issues – size zero and fur, for example – not necessarily being answered in full.
Fascinating stuff – the interview clip should still be available on the link page.
Source credibility is an issue I want to return to early on when blogging. I’m fascinated by how political parties seem to feel they need to seize on an ‘identikit’ of what makes for an effective communicator, without reflecting on the complex issues that go towards creating source credibility. Anyone who knows me knows I can’t stop celebrating the communication skills of little known Labour MP Malcolm Wicks. I discovered over Christmas that Wicks had been quietly ‘stood’ down from the Government team towards the end of last year. He doesn’t fit the identikit (he’s older, and rounder), but some of the techniques he uses (and he probably doesn’t even know it) are fantastic.
On many occasions (on both pensions policy, and on nuclear energy), I found myself being persuaded to suspend my objection to a policy position, purely because it was Malcolm Wicks being interviewed. John Hutton, his then boss as Secretary of State could not have had the same effect. Persuasion/Influence in action.
The fact that Wicks was able to operate like this in an area of government policy as controversial as nuclear power, for example, suggests some pretty subtle, yet effective operating skills. He gives across the impression with interviewers of being two way and symmetrical in his approach to his encounter with them, whereas you can’t say that with most other politicians, whose sole intention appears to be to repeat the same line as many times as possible.
‘Hard pressed families’. ‘We’re doing everything we can’. ‘They are the do nothing party’. It’s important to repeat your message, to ensure you get it across, but to repeat a meaningless phrase 18 times in the same interview does nothing other than alienate the audience.
Wicks’ approach, where he appeared to put all his cards on the table at the beginning of an interview, and treat the problem for discussion as a shared problem for the interviewer and himself to solve immediately took the sting out of any encounter. The interjection of a casual, ‘Yeah?’ as he went along also meant that the interviewer was gently brought along with him, as to reply, ‘well actually, no’ would have appeared altogether too rude at that stage. By the time the interviewer might have wanted to interject, they were too far down the road of having already agreed with the scenario that Wicks had been setting out. Sheer genius.
This is what I want the Ditch to do – but to attach these reflections on professional PR practice to academic theory – and it is to this that I plan to return next.
Thank you for joining me for my first post.