Friday, 18 February 2011

Ed Miliband needs media training

While much has been made of Downing Street's appointment of a TV editor to the position of Director of Communications (you can see my view on this here), little has been said on Labour's TV presence.

Fundamentally, it is very poor with the Labour communications team failing to grasp the importance of supplying a good clip for the evening news bulletins. With ever fewer people connecting with politics, the importance of the BBC News at 6 and 10 plus ITV's 10 o'clock news as well as Channel Four's under watched bulletin at 7pm has never been greater.

So it was with amusement and professional disbelief that, while watching the BBC 10 o'clock news last night, I saw Ed Miliband pop up on the screen twice in two minutes to deliver truly terrible soundbites. They were sufficiently terrible that his words were lost on me and I have had to search the internet for what he actually said. What he said seems almost irrelevant but he was shrill - talking in political cliches - which will turn off the floating voter. It is essential to remember when delivering a clip like this that you are being welcomed into someone's home so speak in a way that will connect with your audience. Both Ed Balls and Ed Miliband have a tendency to talk in a way a school prefect might talk to a lowly 3rd year pupil who hasn't tucked their shirt in.  

One aside on this, it is interesting that, scanning through the BBC website this morning, neither of the Miliband clips are featured which is another opportunity lost to get their message across. Unfortunately, this means I can't post them for readers of this blog to view for themselves, but in short Miliband was sweaty and shiny, looked distracted, the camera shot was far too close, while the backdrop was of a very busy Portcullis House. All this meant that his words became irrelevant and he was just another talking head on the news rather than looking like a Prime Minister in waiting.

In opposition David Cameron made fantastic use of 'doorstep' type interviews to deliver soundbites. It is a very time efficient way to disrupt the Government's management of the news agenda, but takes planning and skill from the communications team. Tip off the media, arrange a 'doorstep' and by delivering one good line you could find yourself leading the news that evening. It wasn't luck that David Cameron was able to arrive at a meeting and deliver a soundbite for the TV news - that looked and sounded right - while exiting the car throughout his time as leader of the opposition.

If Miliband is going to make headway in the longer term he is going to need to get savvy with how to use the media. Perhaps appointing two newspaper men to be his key advisers wasn't such a good move but no one seems to be mentioning that. Maybe he is getting the right advice but needs media training?  

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