Bill Shorten’s Yes Minister Moment
One small mistake for a man, and a giant leap backwards for the team
Normally a strong performer, Shorten was pilloried for this. Caught on the hop in a media interview with David Speers on SKY’s PM Agenda, Mr Shorten’s unfortunate phrasing and facial expression scored him runs in the major papers and news bulletins of the day.
Obama Caught Out by Danish TV
Sometimes saying the right thing is the wrong thing
Antipodeans are used to hearing American Presidents say, “We have no better ally than Australia.” The above video exposes it as just another line in international diplomacy. What’s a poor little country like ours to do?
In our media training and communication coaching programs we frequently point out:
1. Any line you repeat more than once or twice will start to sound like a trick and you look dull when caught out.
2. Repeated words draw attention to themselves. When you repeat any word unintentionally, your communication begins to produce unintended (usually tonal) effects. Know what your favourite words are. These are the words you repeat without even knowing it. Even professional TV presenters make this mistake. Lately I’ve noticed news reporters and presenters stuck in rutted vocal patterns; starting every new sub-segment, “Now…”. In business I hear a lot of people habitually start with, “So…” even though the new thought is apropos of nothing.
You easily clean up these unintended weak starts, but first you must become aware of them. That often takes external review, whether by a coach or other observer or by recording and reviewing your performances.
Once aware of errors such as word and phrase repetition, you can start exercising control over them. Fresh thinking never hurts. Break out a thesaurus to identify alternative words and use those.
As litigators, adjudicators and regulators call parties to account
Rhetorica Update Vol.3 Iss.2 Apr 2012
Every crisis is partly chaotic, unpredictable and unmanagable.
Losing our head may be unnecessary, if we can anticipate and improve how to manage common event-response dimensions.
In a crisis, management’s broad priorities are to marshall resources for operations to address the situation and communication to occur with key audiences.
Before the crisis is over, the long process of litigation begins.
To highlight the salient example of our times, BP settled 100,000 collective claim cases in March 2012, for US$7.8 billion, nearly two full years after the Deepwater Horizon accident. Criminal charges against BP executives, i.e. engineers, are reportedly imminent.
In court, prosecution lawyers will ask the same, brutally simple questions they always do:
1. To what extent did you consider crisis possibilities and scenarios?
2. What did you do to prevent or prepare for such scenarios?
3. How did you train people in how to respond, in the event of an accident?
4. How often did you test and review your plans and how did your organisation perform?
5. What did you start, stop or change as a result?
During or after litigation, regulation comes under review. Every poor answer to the above questions increases the likelihood of added operational restriction.
Someone always says, “It will never happen to us,” as they did at Enron, Andersen, BP, Exxon, HIH, Ansett, Concorde, Lehman Brothers, AIG, etc., etc.
Crises invite uncertainty, reputation and brand damage, rising costs and scrutiny and falling market share, value and employee morale. Further, Dr Tony Jaques points to 10-year research by Melbourne University showing that a quarter of Australian crises cost more than $100m each and ended in business obliteration.
Scenario Planning, Training, Remediation, Prevention, Testing, Benchmarking and Review never cost that much.
Tony Jaques suggests adding Question 6: When did you first know about this?
This is just about impossible to answer without risk. If you knew about it early, why didn’t you take action? If you found out about it late, then why didn’t you know about it earlier? This question is hard because it is not about eliciting information, but about setting a trap for managers.
Contact us for advice about any of these activities.
On a sleazy road to power over a dead man’s corpse
Rhetorica Update Vol.3 Iss.2 Apr 2012
When Senator Bert Milliner (QLD) died before the Budget in 1974, he left what Australia’s Constitution calls a casual vacancy.
While the Constitution freely empowered each State Parliament to choose its own replacement senators, it was left to convention to suggest that replacements come from the same party as the vacating senator.
According to former Labor speechwriter Graham Freudenberg, Joh Bjelke-Petersen “seized a chance to deal a devastating blow to the hated Labor Government in Canberra.” Rejecting Labor’s nomination, he appointed Albert Field, a committed anti-Labor man “of outstanding obscurity.”
This single cut to Whitlam’s numbers was part of the “fatal equation” leading to a double dissolution and general election.
Senator Steele Hall accused the Opposition of marching “on the sleazy road to power…over a dead man’s corpse.”
Since 1977, the Constitution has required casual vacancies to be filled in the manner previously entrusted to fair play.
On this basis, Bob Carr enjoyed a sleazeless transition into Mark Arbib’s NSW Senate position.
NOTE: Thanks to my father-in law Peter Loof, a former deputy secretary to the Attorney-General, who kindly explained and posted to me the pertinent paragraphs and pages from Australia’s Constitution, along with enlightening excerpts from Graham Freudenberg’s book, A Certain Grandeur.
Vol.3 Iss.1 Mar 2012
Does the phrase “speaking with one voice” imply micromanagement and groupthink?
The need for clarity and consistency of message in effective brand, reputation and political management gave rise to analogies like “singing from the same hymnsheet” and “speaking with one voice”.
Some people think it’s immoral for managers to tell how others around them how to speak. YES, it can be, when the content is untruthful or unhelpful, or when it amounts to exerting power or control in a devious way for selfish advantage. We call this manipulation.
BUT, effective organisational communication is not about that. Rather, it’s about helping people with a common interest communicate in a way that protects and advances a legitimate cause.
Every group, audience and market consists of many voices and personalities with potential for fresh, insightful expression. In truth and reality, there is no need to remove any person’s voice, opinion or personality, but sometimes we may need taming or tuning for the greater good.
No analogy is perfect. Speaking with one voice is an insider phrase, not really intended for outside use. Properly understood, opportunity abounds for groups to unify and clarify their answers, positions and directions in ways that remain interesting, authentic and credible.
Language is About Music As Well as Meaning
Words…they flute and sing and taber, and disappear, like apparitions, with a curious perfume and a most melodious twang.
Rose Macaulay, 1935, ‘Writing’ in Personal Pleasures
YES, words work when they carry a cargo of apt, accurate meaning AND they work even better when they sound pleasant. Linguists, novelists, journalists, script and speech writers agree: having a good ear and achieving euphony can make the difference between words resonating and lasting—or falling flat.
For God so loved the world. Veni, vidi, vici. Fourscore and seven years ago. I have a dream. Yes, we can. Yada, yada, yada. Chicka chicka boom.
Great lines from pop culture, education, politics, religion and business are a matter of taste and context, but they always have enough general appeal to stir their own momentum.
Can euphony be learned? Yes; in part. Some people have a talent, but we can all improve by discovering and applying the (so-called) laws, tricks and shortcuts.
Try these: repeat sounds, play with their proximity and progression; try long vowels and liquid consonants along with degrees and order of obstruency in phrases; vary your pitch, pace and projection and use pauses.
In your next speech or presentation, attend to your sound, as well as your meaning and watch for audience appreciation.
Media Training: Rort or Help?
Sydney, Dec 2010
No-one in Australia has more media-facing experience than our second-longest-serving Prime Minister, John Howard. He took part in hundreds of interviews every year he was in office, showing remarkable focus, resilience and composure.
At VIVO Cafe in Sydney recently, Rhetorica’s managing director, Antoni Lee, asked Mr Howard what advice he had for today’s politicians about how to handle the media. Howard replied, “They ought not agree to every request. There are so many opportunities.” He pointed out the two 24-hour news channels and social media as key contributors to the media’s “voracious appetite”. For a moment, the room was silent, then Howard added, “And forget off the record.”
Mr Howard claimed to have improved his tech skills since leaving parliament, no-doubt in typing his memoir, Lazarus Rising. But he’s not on Facebook, nor does he Tweet. Yet. The modern Lazarus left carrying a copy of uber-marketer Iggy Pintado’s book, Connection Generation.
PR Report, June 2010
Antoni Lee has established a new international communication training firm called Rhetorica. Antoni and his team work with representatives of some of Australia’s — and the world’s — leading brands and organisations in what Antoni calls, “the art of performance communication.”
“If you communicate publicly for your work you’re paid to perform,” Antoni said. “You have to achieve something; you have to get results. Rhetorica exists to help presenters get those results — whether in and through the media, business pitches, roadshows, speeches or other acts of public communication.”
Antoni’s communication career goes back to the early 1990s, spanning substantial periods in government, consulting and corporate environments. He left Michels Warren in 1999 to join IBM leading into Y2K, the Sydney Olympics and the dotcom boom. He joined Red Agency in 2004, where he established Redact and an enviable reputation for media training around Australia and into South East Asia.
“Being born and raised in an entertaining and performing arts family also influences my work. Performing teaches you how to step out of yourself and into your role, without losing authenticity” Antoni said.
Rhetorica’s team includes top flight broadcasters Mimi Kwa (ABC Insiders, A Current Affair, Australia Network) and Jayne Edwards (2UE, press gallery, Inside Business) and in demand voice actor, Adrian Lee (Adrian and Antoni are brothers).