The art of saying what you think

This excellent article on the rise and fall of PR makes the point that senior people talking in public are very rarely using their own words, and indeed often don’t even know what they are talking about. I remember hearing of someone talking at the UN General Council who didn’t realise that he had picked up and was re-reading the previous speakers already heard speech until someone came up to the lectern and pointed it out to him!

In blogging we talk of “authenticity” and “finding your voice”. I never underestimate how hard it is for people proficient in business bollocks to rediscover the art of plain speaking, but if they are going to get involved in social spaces online they have to. How can they even begin to do that when someone else is writing their words for them?

The phrase “make them look good” came up in conversation during one of my workshops this week with a group of “professional communicators”. I immediately picked up on this and we went into more depth on what that “make them look good” actually means. There was a split between those who saw their job being to make sure their senior folks said the right thing in the right way in public, and those of us who saw that as artificially propping up people not up to the job.

What do you reckon? Where does helping people to do their best stop and starting to think for them start?

2 thoughts on “The art of saying what you think

  1. I think it depends, I have written countless briefings and presentations. Some delivered by others and some by me. I have written material for managers who have taken me to task over evey word and every slide; making sure they understand the underlying evidence and are comfortable with the message and their ability to deliver it convincingly. Then there were others who failed to prepare and I watched them turning my words into gibberish, like watching a car crash in real time, I of course accepted the blame with good grace. 😉 As for my own stuff, I never let anyone else write my material. I will ask people to review it and comment but for me it has to come from the heart and no one else knows quite how that feels but me. I think it’s ok to help people find their voice as long as they are fully engaged, but ultimately this should be a coaching role rather than a support crutch and eventually they should not need you any more. That’s a good measure of success in my view.

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