Sunday, 2 January 2011

The best and worst communicators of 2010

It's that time of year where we look back on the year just past and forward to the prospects before us. Over the next few days I will list my standout communicators of 2010, and the reasons why I believe they have excelled. I also outline those who have failed miserably. I have picked out the best and the worst in the world's of politics, media and sport.

Throughout 2011 I will name a communicator of the week and outline what they have done well, whether it is winning a tough policy argument, leading a great campaign or inspiring others to excel through great communication. 

So here are 2010's winners and losers in...


With a General Election in the UK, a change of Prime Minister, a new Labour leader and the first coalition in most people's lifetimes, plus mid-term elections in the U.S, there has been a lot to communicate.

At election time politicians naturally find themselves in the spotlight to a far greater degree than normal. There is a lot of newsprint and TV time to fill. Some grab that chance while others shrink under the pressure. The 2010 election was no different with two standout moments.

Nick Clegg grabbed his chance with stellar performances in the first ever televised debates between party leaders seeing the Lib Dems leaping in the opinion polls. On the flip-side was Gordon Brown and his unfortunate slagging off of Labour supporter, Mrs Duffy, when he failed to realise his microphone was still on in the back of his Jaguar. If this wasn't bad enough he then raced back to offer an apology via the TV studios showing, once and for all, that Brown was a politician being buffered by events rather than setting the agenda.  

The winner and loser in this category are two others however. My winner is David Cameron. Despite the rather unfocused campaign by the Conservatives, Cameron himself had a strong campaign. Pictures of him stood shoulder to shoulder with staff at B&Q, Asda, Tesco or any number of other household names demonstrated a familiarity and willingness to connect with voters. After the expenses scandal this was exactly what was required. These pictures led the TV news night after night.

While Cameron didn't excel in the TV debates, he was a safe pair of hands in all three set piece events, it was the way he communicated a desire to do what was right for the country during the coalition negotiations that really made him stand out. The contrast with the dithering and calculating Brown was telling. The new Prime Minister has embraced coalition politics in a way that has infuriated some but, as the head of this government, if he hadn't communicated with passion and belief then it would have been him not Ed Miliband under pressure this January.

My loser is also a significant player in the coalition but for all the wrong reasons. A year ago Vince Cable was the media's golden boy of British politics. It seemed he could do no wrong. Nick Clegg saw this and deployed Saint Vince at his side throughout the election campaign. The electorate loved him for, in their eyes at least, telling the truth and for straight talking. How things have changed.

Since May, Cable has looked uncomfortable and uncommitted to the task of getting British business moving in the right direction. His contempt for many of his colleagues in government has been obvious to see. A media handler's nightmare never able to simply convey a message or nail a soundbite. Then the Telegraph struck with their sting operation and Saint Vince was no more than a memory. Vince's failure to communicate successfully may have changed the terms of debate forever.      

1 comment:

  1. I think if anyone was to be labelled a loser it must be David Cameron. He failed to win an election he was expected to win, largely because he failed to communicate effectively in the leaders debates and because the overall Tory message of change and the 'big society' was badly communicated by Cameron and others. You point this in the piece, and so how you can name Cameron the winner all the same is baffling.


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