Blueprint for some old-school communications, great Scott

In today's age of tweets, pins, likes, and Vines, the good, old-fashioned speech - when delivered properly - remains among the most powerful communications vehicles.

Accompanying this issue of PRWeek is our annual Career Guide. One of the features highlights 10 individuals not in PR who are inspiring communicators to up their games.

ESPN anchor Stuart Scott is not on that list, but one could argue he should be.

In today’s age of tweets, pins, likes, and Vines, the good, old-fashioned speech – when delivered properly – remains among the most powerful communications vehicles.

Scott, famous for his cool delivery when behind the SportsCenter desk, gave a master class at the ESPY Awards in July. He has been battling cancer since 2007. His struggles have intensified of late, but you would never know it from how he carries himself, which is a form of powerful communication in itself.

He was being honored with the annual Jimmy V Perseverance Award, named after legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano, who succumbed to cancer in 1993, eight weeks after delivering an iconic speech at that year’s ESPYs.

Scott started by being himself: hip and humorous. He "gloated" about being presented the award by "Jack Bauer" (the 24 character played by Kiefer Sutherland) but he was also the epitome of authenticity, the brass ring all PR pros chase.

Hip transformed into humble. "I’m not special," he said. He named past recipients of the award and underscored how he didn’t belong in their class. At times, he took the focus off himself, which made his words more impactful.

"I have a dream." "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." Every great speech needs such lines – takeaways – to have lasting impact.

"You beat cancer by how you live, why you live, and in the manner in which you live," said Scott. "And when you get too tired to fight, lay down, rest, and let somebody else fight for you." Those words will empower anyone battling cancer for decades to come, as well as their loved ones.

The seriousness of his condition is certainly a factor in his words’ resonance, but it simultaneously underscores how impressive he was in delivering them. Hopefully, the next address you give won’t be about a topic as grave as cancer. But whether it is or not, I encourage you to listen to Scott’s speech. It is a classic example of excelling at the purest – and most powerful – form of communications.  

Gideon Fidelzeid is managing editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at gideon.fidelzeid@prweek.com.

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