Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Soundbite training for Ed Miliband

Leader of the opposition is a depressingly difficult task. Individuals who do this job have to seize with both hands those rare open-goal moments when you get a free hit in the media. This is one of the few times you can secure genuine cut through but only if you get it right.

The simplest way to ensure you are getting your message across is to deliver a soundbite to camera which then appears on the evening news bulletins. Despite falling ratings this will still get you into the majority of UK households on an average evening. Ed Miliband has got one thing right: he isn't shy in pulling rank over his shadow cabinet so it is he who appears on the TV. Anyone remember the last time, other than Ed Balls, a senior Labour politician was clipped for the 10 o'clock news on the main political story of the day? This actually makes good political sense as increasingly voters are swayed as much by individuals as by the issues. If people are going to vote for Miliband as PM they are going to have to know who he is first.    

The problem comes from Miliband's performances. Put simply, he needs everything on screen to look right, to say the right thing and deliver his lines in the right way. To do this he needs to make the following adjustments:

1. On looking right: He needs to move on from delivering a clip to camera sat in the leader of the opposition's office in front of a bookcase holding hand and foot prints of his children. He looks far too much like a political talking head delivering a line. Ideally he would have behind him some context to help him tell the story or at least show he isn't a politician out of touch with voters. This was something David Cameron perfected in opposition and is struggling with now due to various constraints of being in office.

2. Saying the right thing: He often gets close when delivering his lines and is clearly trying to demonstrate that it is the Labour Party who are the ones on the side of voters. However he doesn't use memorable language, alliteration or other tricks to get those at home to sit up and take notice. He also introduces nearly everything he says with an annoying verbal tick of "Look..." e.g. "Look, what the British people want to know is..." This makes him sound preachy and hectoring.

3. Good delivery: If he does say the right thing his tone is nearly always way off beam. There is rarely the right sense of urgency or level of empathy required. He comes across as a whiny teenager who might as well be sat telling the world how "it just isn't fair".

I'll watch closely over the coming weeks and see if his newspaper men who surround him pick up these broadcasting tips...   

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