In the current political climate, it might seem ridiculous to say that we should take a leaf out of our MPs’ books. But politicians are the masters of sticking to their messaging.
We recently attended the Labour Party’s response to the Government’s Spring Statement. With the event taking place on yet another crucial day for Brexit and with Keir Starmer MP on the panel, many attendees (myself included) saw it as an opportunity to find out the latest positioning from Labour on the UK’s departure from the EU.
The opening statements were safe territory for each speaker. Carefully chosen key messages and the opportunity to land them with the audience, without being interrupted. In any public forum, this is the dream scenario.
The second element of the event was a Q&A session – an opportunity for the audience to probe the Shadow Brexit Secretary, to uncover Labour’s ‘secret plans’ or their next steps. If I had been briefing a client, I would have given a big warning: this was an unknown element that could easily box them into an uncomfortable corner.
In a normal interview situation, this would have been a trip hazard at the very least – and yet, no one tripped… and that’s where we can take a lesson from MPs. The panellists were resolute in their messaging, not in an ‘in your face’ or a shouty, repetitive fashion, but in a way that intimated their messaging was relevant to every situation.
The crux is their well-rehearsed key messages – these are themes, claims and positions that politicians know inside out. They’re points of discussion day in, day out, whether that’s in Parliament, with their constituents or party colleagues, with businesses, with media or with people they encounter on the street. As the messaging becomes second nature, the speaker’s performance improves.
The lesson we can learn from this as consultants and on behalf of our clients is the old mantra of practice, practice, practice… and if you don’t know what you’re talking about, it’s probably best to do your research.