Determined determination, eh?

December 11, 2008

Michael Ignatieff held the most important news conference of his life so far yesterday, an hour after he was acclaimed as the new leader of the Liberal party. One would think that he would learn his lines properly for this solemn occasion.

Threatening to pull the plug on the minority Harper government, the newly minted leader says “he must not doubt my calm, quiet, determined determination that he has to walk back down the hill.” His expression made it clear that he knew he had just screwed up his big line.

Mr. Ignatieff was trying to use the Rule of three, a favourite gimmick of speechwriters and academics. “Calm, quiet and resolute determination” perhaps? Unflinching? Righteous? Churchillian? Napoleonic?

I hate to throw stones at a public figure flubbing a line. Hey, most of us arrogant flacks would get slaughtered if put in similar circumstances, like the Toby Ziegler character in The West Wing. But it’s more than the screwed-up line. Ignatieff is okay behind a podium, but in interviews his non-verbal sucks. We barely see his eyes because he looks down a lot, he seems to be hunched over (a common trait in tall people in a sit-down interview). I’m not a make-up guy, but it seems to me something could be done on that front too. The whole thing leaves a bad impression.

The man needs a two-day media training session with some heartless flack who will break his bad habits. Judging by the performance of the previous leader, that person is not available within the Liberal brain pool. They need to bring in somebody from outside.


Speaking of The West Wing, is anybody in PR using this book? I’m curious about it.


One small step…

July 20, 2008

Thirty-nine years ago, two humans set foot on the Moon, the first to do so. The footage sent back to Earth entered television legend, still eerie to look at today. Neil Armstrong was conscious that whatever he said would be of historical magnitude, so he prepared his famous line: “One small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.” Except, you know, that is not quite what he ended up saying.

What is remarkable is not that he flubbed it. Hey, the man was under quite a bit of pressure. What is incredible is that he claimed to have been misquoted afterwards, and that NASA engineered a cover-up.

Anyone doing PR for any amount of time has had spokespersons flub punchlines. It’s maddening, but what can you do… what is on the record can’t be changed. You move on and try to get it right the next time.