It’s always interesting when someone makes a very public ‘mistake’. Analysing the aftermath, the possible agendas, and reasons why it all went wrong can help clarify some useful media practices.
Take Labour MP and party immigration spokesperson Chris Bryant, who made headlines yesterday, seemingly for all the wrong reasons, after details of a planned speech on foreign workers were leaked to the Sunday Telegraph. Two businesses, Tesco and Next, immediately complained about how they were represented in the transcript, and the address was then altered to show the firms in a more favourable light.
The fundamental point he was trying to convey remained unchanged, but it was no longer the real talking point- the amendments were. Another MP coming unstuck when trying to use the power of the media to highlight their own proposed policies. Or so it seemed. Whether he had a hand in leaking the information or not, it was his responsibility to give a balanced picture of both companies. Inaccuracies ruin a good presentation, so it’s important to ensure any message is watertight before making it public.
Initially he didn’t. And, in a political world marred by distrust and a lack of public confidence, the resulting about turn that occurred once the organisations voiced an aggrievance was always likely to give rise to scathing criticism regarding politicians and deep private pockets. A blow to our faith in Westminster’s ability to enact change independent of corporations, and a potential blotch on Bryant’s personal record.
But, despite the apparent cock up ,there’s actually a far more interesting way of looking at the scenario, which paints Bryant as something of a potential martyr. As such it’s likely to be completely off the mark, but nevertheless proves the truth in our opinion that every word of media and public-directed dialogue, printed or spoken, needs to be scrutinised in order to ensure genuine PR success.
So how can a now well-documented blunder actually be seen as a triumph? Well, imagine Bryant as a selfless employment hero, dedicated to raising the percentage of Britons in work, and willing to lay down his reputation in order to get the right things done. As many politicians do, he decides to deliver a speech, and as many politicians also do, sends excerpts from that to a trusted journalistic contact to claim up front news coverage, increasing the attention that will land on the full rhetoric the following day.
Clearly the passages being ‘leaked’ will be chosen very, very carefully indeed, as the original words will have been. Perhaps then, in the longest stretch of the imagination, one draft was used to for the Sunday Telegraph, whilst another, toned down version, was ‘officially delivered’ via public address. When everything has been made public, the contents of the original, controversial statement will still be the news, rather than those in the markedly less accusatory second.
This means that despite the change of heart, the actual original intended message is the one we will all take in and remember, as it will be repeated the most, even though he technically didn’t actually ‘say’ those things, and therefore has already done enough to appease Tesco and Next, just about. Like we said, this theory is highly unlikely, but not impossible to imagine.
If it is true, we suspect he didn’t consider the number of times he’ll be asked what he really thinks about all this in the weeks, months and, if he lasts that long, years to come- as it could get awkward. Digressions aside, though, whether we’re talking complete fiction or not, like we said this exemplifies that whenever looking for public and press attention, the more carefully chosen your words are, and well timed their delivery, the more likely a master plan is to succeed.