Monday, 9 January 2012

HOW TO GIVE A BETTER SPEECH THAN OBAMA and change your world - (Cameron, Miliband and Obama gaffes) Darren Kelly, Kellcomm, Blog - Day 49


In the last seven days, PM David Cameron made a remark about Tourettes and Shadow Leader Ed Milliband turned Blockbusters into Blackbusters in a twitter tribute to a TV legend. There was uproar on both sides of the political divide as members of parliament saw their opportunity to take a shot.

Cameron said that facing a certain member of the opposition was like facing somebody with Tourettes. He defended his remark as being "off the cuff," but he deeply offended people with the disability. Cameron is normally sensitive to people with disabilities. His son Ivan suffered from cerebral palsy and severe epilepsy before he passed away in 2009, aged six. Perhaps the real issue is that he became complacent in his language. Many leaders face a battle to bury the childhood banter of the college hall or sports dressing rooms, and they let it slip in times of complacency or anger. Cameron’s remark was appalling because it showed a lack of understanding and respect for people with Tourettes. Tourettes syndrome is an inherited neurological disorder characterised by tics - involuntary, sudden and rapid movements.

Ed Miliband paid tribute to the late Bob Holness, who presented Blockbusters for many years. It was unfortunate that his critics jumped on his mistake of tweeting Blackbusters instead. That was obviously a simple typo error. The real crime came when the post was blamed on an office junior. This raised a bigger question. Does the Shadow Leader not send his own tweets? If not, why tweet at all? It is almost like phoning the man next door and asking him to tell your wife that you love her. If you want to tweet, you should do it yourself, and never blame somebody else for sending it. Twitter is after all a personal communication tool.

The danger of the above mistakes is that they may force other people to stop communicating for fear of making an error that could cost them their career and position in society. The golden rule is that you should speak what you feel as long as it is within the law and within the spirit of decency. However, you must admit your error and apologise when you fall short. Cover ups and weak excuses didn’t save Richard Nixon’s job or save Bill Clinton’s reputation. Cover ups and weak excuses force people to create a blame culture and to make the problem worse. An honest apology to an audience that understands the weakness of human nature works best when it is delivered with sincerity.

Sometimes people in public life try to be funny when they shouldn’t. It is easy to judge their mistakes, but we must understand the pressure these people are under. Can you imagine if your every word was analysed, compared, contrasted, dissected and magnified every day? Would it be fair to say that we have all made an error in our choice of words or structure of phrases? Yes, these leaders have to be more careful, and perhaps we need to be more forgiving.

Barack Obama has been quick to seek forgiveness for the gaffes he made in his career. Obama once joked about Ronald Reagan’s wife Nancy having séances in the White House. Nancy Reagan had in fact consulted astrologers, and Obama quickly apologised for the insensitive gaffe. Obama also attempted to use humour about disabled people on the Jay Leno TV show. He quickly called the Special Olympics to apologise. All great speakers make gaffes that make them wish the ground would swallow them up. That is why a novice to the world of media should always engage in Media Relations training. If the practiced politicians can make mistakes, what chance does a novice have without training?

Tomorrow, I will share the words of Obama on key issues that will affect his re-election this year.

Take care,


PS: 'HOW TO GIVE A BETTER SPEECH THAN OBAMA and change your world' - is available on iTunes and Amazon NOW!
Audio Version only.
Text version out January 31st.

Kellcomm, Princes Exchange, Princes Square, Leeds, LS1 4HY, United Kingdom

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