Friday Drop: Good week for BNP leader Nick Griffin

It just goes to show that you can be a smarmy, smirking racist

Griffin: Appearance prompted riots
Griffin: Appearance prompted riots


holocaust-denial denier of a politician and still the mainstream parties don't know how to deal with you.

The debate as to whether Griffin's appearance on Question Time was appropriate and whether he achieved his communication objectives by so appearing, will occupy acres of newsprint and the blogosphere. A wolf in sheep's clothing; a ‘small man, enlarged by the anger of his enemies' (Matthew Parris). Whatever.

But following my commentary last week about managing TV panel discussions, it was the paucity of the performance of the mainstream parties that surprised me.

Their panellists vied with each other to slay the BNP dragon by identifying it and Griffin as racist (tell us something we didn't know). None of them sought to shoot down BNP policies on the economy, housing and jobs (where so many BNP votes are to be found). Almost inevitably they fell out with each other as to whose immigration policy was to blame for the BNP's electoral success at all.

Sure, there were some good attacking witticisms but there was no coherent narrative. I'm sure that BNP voters - and the middle class audience watching - are well aware of the party's racist beliefs. But I suspect that it is their message to a section of society marginalized by mainstream politicians and policies that really fuels their support. And it was here that the panelists failed to land a meaningful blow last night.


Key Lessons:

Key messages have to be set in the context of a narrative. Otherwise they fall on stony ground.

Audiences need to understand where you're coming from and what you propose to do. Student union level political posturing is not a coherent narrative.


Bad Week for Sir Philip Green, Chairman of Arcadia Group


Bad week I hear you cry? When his profits are up 13% in a grim recession? Indeed. But a bad media week because when being interviewed on Thursday morning about his results, Sir Philip manages to sound like he's up before the beak on an indecency charge!

As a private company, Sir Philip has no external shareholders to worry about. And with no analysts to worry about either, he does not need to ‘under-promise' in order to subsequently over-deliver.

So here was an opportunity to talk up the achievements of his business. It was basically an opportunity to have a two minute advertorial on the Today programme. Instead, at best he rambles and at worst, his early monosyllabic replies cause the interviewer, Adam Shaw, to fill up the ‘dead air' with long questions. Shaw asks the same question three times in an attempt to elicit some kind of answer before giving up.

No key message. No corporate narrative. No clear vision of the future. And for the country's top retailer to answer "I'm not really sure" to one question is particularly hopeless. A wasted media opportunity.

Green is usually better than this - passionate about his own business. Today he sounds like he's Rip Van Winkle just awoken from his sleep. Not impressive.


Key Lessons:

The most powerful word you can utter on radio is "imagine". A successful radio interviewee paints pictures with words so as to hold the audiences attention and cause them to process what you are saying.

Hesitancy and silence on the other hand cause ‘radio death'. There are no visual images to distract the audience. And smile as you answer - it lightens the timbre of your voice thus making you sound more likeable.

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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