Strong and stable leadership – a word of advice for the Prime Minister

You might not have heard this but, apparently, Theresa May represents “strong and stable government” while Jeremy Corbyn offers “a coalition of chaos,” well, that’s according to Theresa May anyway.

The Prime Minister has been getting some stick from frustrated journalists and media commentators, as well as opposition politicians for repeating the reference to strong and stable government ad nauseam.

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Sorry, Prime Minister, what was that message again?

We’d argue that in communications terms she’s right to take this approach. As various spin doctors and Communications experts have pointed out it’s only when you as the politician or organisation are sick to death of a phrase or key message that your target audience is likely to be just beginning to register it.  It’s something that we talk about in our media training courses.

Certainly, one of our journalists at Communicate media was recently doing some vox pops for a report on the election and was amazed to hear that voters in at least one northern town were not aware of this much-repeated phrase yet.

“Really,” wondered our media trainer/journalist colleague. “Where have you been for the last few weeks?” The answer is, of course, getting on with their lives and not obsessing with the election the way journalists and politicians do.

So, yes, the Prime Minister is right to keep hammering out this phrase but we have a suggestion for her that would challenge the perception that she’s a stuck record well also driving home this message more effectively.

We say in our media training sessions you need to repeat your key messages but within reason. The really important point, though – and this is something that the Prime Minister is missing – is that you must back up your key message with evidence. You can also use this evidence to develop and expand on that message.

The key message doesn’t vary but the stories, anecdotes and examples that you use to back it up do. Keep them varied and relevant and your audience won’t get bored. Just make sure that each one supports that one point that you want to get across.

The other advantage here is that you can vary these stories to suit your audience. The PM might be visiting a car factory, for instance. In order to underline her point about strong and stable government, she could tell a story relating to the automotive industry. If she makes it compelling, vary it with a mix of drama, pathos and humour then her audience will be hooked. She can then slip in the key soundbite about “strong and stable leadership.”

Visiting a school will allow her to give some examples of how strong and stable leadership is essential in education. She could introduce some anecdotes and examples from the work of headteachers and from what’s happening in particular schools.

By telling a story rather than simply repeating this mantra as well as engaging her audience more effectively the Prime Minister can demonstrate and prove what she means by…I’m not going to write it again but you know what I mean.

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Posted by Simon Brooke on at

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