Friday Drop: Bad week for shadow home secretary Chris Grayling

Go on, have a heart. Poor Chris Grayling. Struggling to secure a higher public profile,

Grayling: ouch
Grayling: ouch

he has been positioned as the Conservatives' ‘attack dog' at their party conference. Beavering away, he has been on every channel, discussing every policy issue. He even registered a notably solid performance against Paxman on Newsnight.

But, tired, on his umpteenth media interview of the week and out-of-the-loop on Cameron's plan to offer a role to ex-Army chief Sir Richard Dannatt, he mishears the question put to him by the BBC's Emily Maitlis. He thinks Gordon Brown has recruited another non-politician as a minister. ‘A political gimmick' he cries. Oops. And then the embarrassing and unconvincing u-turn. And let's commend Maitlis' professionalism that she didn't collapse with laughter!

One small gaffe and he becomes the laughing stock of the Tory party and the wider Westminster village. Even though the media moved on the next day, it is now on the record that, as Alan Johnson said, he'll ‘attack anything - even his own party'. It will be constantly referenced by the media and by his political opponents and undermine his future messages.

Key lessons:

Don't get distracted by tiredness or anything else - listen closely to every question (and if in debate, everything your opponent says).

It's tempting when you're tasked with undertaking multiple interviews to slip into a default ‘line-to-take'. But every interview is different and the audience too. Treat every interview as if it is the first interview. Take two minutes to prepare mentally, consider the audience and adapt your key message accordingly

 

Good week for HSBC chairman Stephen Green

How often do you hear an interview with the positive use of the words ‘ethical' and ‘banking' in the same sentence? So, in full Sarah Jessica-Parker mode we can't help but wonder: ‘what must you do to sound convincing?'

Well, watch Stephen Green. Not only is he Chairman of a bank that avoided entanglement with the worst of the banking crisis, but he is also an ordained Church of England vicar. Handy.

He says that the banking industry collectively owes the world an apology for the financial crisis. No news there.

But maybe because he's a priest, he also recognises that an apology without repentance is meaningless. So he explains: ‘[the industry] also owes the real world a commitment to learn the lessons'. And then he tells us what they are (implying that he already applies them): ‘.... about governance and ethics and culture within the industry'.

And as organisations scrabble about for a new narrative to suit the external environment, he's not ditching key messages that can still resonate (in HSBC's case he highlights its ‘scale' and ‘reach') but building on them ("it's in our genes to have a strong capital base and in sense the industry is moving in our direction").

Key lessons:

The key attributes for a successful spokesperson are credibility and likeability. Green can credibly sell a message of repentance on behalf of the banking sector due to his own background and his bank's track record during the recent crisis.

Green's easygoing and confident - but never arrogant - manner makes for likeability and therefore successful communication of his messages. Most company chairmen leave it to the CEO to handle interviews. But if you have a confident and articulate chairman, use them!

PRWeek will host an Electric Airwaves masterclass for in-house communicators on 4th December, offering participants tips and techniques on how to exploit the media opportunity. For your free place, email with your name, title and organisation

 

 

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