The importance of being earnest (and not maverick)

Oh, the importance of getting your message right and not letting loose any spokespeople that haven’t been media trained! While watching BBC Breakfast this morning, I saw a great example of this.

NUS president Aaron Porter was sat on the sofa with Bill, Sian and Clare Solomon, president of the University of London Student Union. Aaron Porter was very business-like (appropriately for the type of audience he was talking to); saying that he believed NUS members had “lost a lot of public sympathy” because of what happened yesterday. However, Clare Solomon was heard to say (a couple of times if I heard correctly while warming my porridge in the microwave) something along the lines of ‘it was only a few windows’.

I don’t think that Clare Solomon’s apparently throw away comment would have endeared her to most of the viewers of BBC Breakfast and hasn’t exactly helped the NUS’s campaign for public support.

For me this was a good example of how vital it is to make sure that you use the right spokesperson, with the right knowledge and the right level of media training; who has something interesting to say, but isn’t going to put their size nines in it.

 I hate to sound like an extra on the Jeremy Vine show (but I am approaching middle age I guess – if that’s 40?), but just for the record Ms Solomon – fifty people were arrested during the protests, 41 police were injured during and a few windows at 30 Millbank – the Conservative Party headquarters in Westminster – were indeed broken.

PS I was a student once (for four fantastic years) and can faintly remember what it was like to feel the injustice of an unenlightened world, but I don’t remember violence being the answer.

I’d better get off my soap box now, but I think today’s breakfast viewing made a very good wider point for those of you thinking about becoming a PR spokesperson – speak carefully (I could mention Tony Hayward too – the ex-CEO of BP who has now got his life back).

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