October 21, 2011
Rt Hon MP David Miliband was welcomed by a full house at the Rose Bowl today in what was a very lively and interesting Q&A event. The former Foreign Secretary’s first question was focused on the transition of economic power from West to East. Miliband referenced the prediction that China’s economy is expected to overtake the US by 2020 and the need for us to adapt to the changing world order.
Miliband was keen to emphasize the shift in power from bourgeoisie to the people, using the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street as an example. He attributed this shift to new technology, citing the Zimbabwean electorate using their phones to take pictures of their vote to prevent foul play by despot Mugabe.
On the subject of democratic process, Miliband pointed out that many express concerns over the future of Libyan politics, fearing a fundamentalist Islamist majority. Mr Miliband rejected these concerns, calling for us to promote democracy, regardless of its consequences. Furthermore, he reiterated the fact that the tide of revolution that has swept the North Africa is home grown, devoid of western intervention, therefore we must support those seeking democratic change.
Questions then moved onto Syria and the Assad regime. “Despite the deaths of 2900 protestors, the situation in Syria differs significantly different to that in Libya,” Miliband said. He then highlighted China & Russia’s veto on any form of action against President Assad and the divide of philosophy among the international community on foreign interventionism.
When asked if we should ignore the veto, Miliband replied “yes, if there is a humanitarian need, a viable military solution and the geo-political positives outweigh the negatives,” citing the Sunni-Shea Muslim divide and the connections with Iran as political antagonists for military action.
On the subject the 2010 election, Miliband conceded that his party lost because “we didn’t give people enough reasons to vote for us.” He was very keen to reject a claim from a member of the audience that Labour because of the Iraq War, arguing that those that defected because of Iraq defected in 2005, yet Labour still won. However another member added that Labour’s return to opposition was overdue, citing 5 million voters lost in 2005.
When pushed for a position on university staff strikes by Professor Paul Blackledge, Miliband claimed “strikes should be used as a last resort tactic, there needs to be a greater, coherent strategy,” referencing the historic Jarrow March of 1936 and the movement’s failure to achieve anything because of a lack of strategy and leadership.
One member of audience protested “if you support the will of the people in the Arab world, you are heavily contradicting yourself by not supporting our strike against pension cuts.” A slightly rumbled looking Miliband replied saying that he is not against strike action; however he fears the political resolve of the uni staff maybe lost if there is no clear strategy that will achieve the desired results.
Miliband advocated multi-lateral disarmament when quizzed on the relevance of Trident in the 21st century and confirmed his support for the plight of the Kurdish population against Turkish aggression. Moreover, Mr Miliband supported the call for a compulsory register of Lobbyists “anything to control lobbyists” he remarked, much to the dismay of aspiring public affairs professionals in the audience.
In conclusion, a very insightful and worldly talk by the MP for South Shields was commended with thundering applause from an over-capacity lecture theatre.
October 12, 2011
The second CIPR Guest Lecture attracted yet another full house as Kevin Murray , CEO of the Bell Potinger Group delivered a fascinating lecture, based on his forthcoming book: The Language of Leaders.
Murray wrote the book after interviewing 54 chairmen, CEOs & Business Leaders as well as 3 military generals and 2 Police Commissioners to ascertain how leaders inspire and influence others to achieve the results the desire.
“It was my years spent as a journalist that I decided I was never going to stop learning and reporting on what it is I had learnt.”
In an era of radical transparency, leadership has also changed quite radically. The speed at which reputation can be damaged is accelerating and leaders need to build organisations that respond at the same speed. Murray illustrated this point by referencing the McLaren ‘Ferrarigate’ crisis that he was burdened with handling: “In the space of 30 minutes, the false rumour that McLaren had been kicked out the World Championship had been reported and dropped by media all over the globe.” This reiterates his notion of the ‘double edged sword of the modern digital world.’
The two fundamental concepts that Murray found imperative to effective leadership and organisational success were trust & engagement. Lack of trust in an organisation costs money, in terms of loss of sales and rebuilding a brand. With reference to Professor Gregory’s lecture and her example of Coca Cola’s valuation, Murray said “there is a shifting culture from managing tangibles, to enhancing the intangibles.”
Murray then highlighted the importance of emotional engagement with stakeholders using his interview with Sir Frank Williams, CEO of F1, as an example: all Sir Frank ever wanted to do was race, and his employees were worried that his successor would not have the same passion as he did.
“He couldn’t move himself, but he managed to move everyone in the organisation.” Murray advocates that passionate values are at the heart of reputation management. All members of the organisation must be empathetic to communicate effectively with stakeholder groups.
Another crucial part of an effective corporate communication is storytelling. Stories are powerful, and audiences co-create the story with you – they are the superglue of ‘conviction communication.’ Murray’s sentiment echoes one of Richard Bailey’s favourite quotes: “Branding is for cows, stories are for people!”
Murray concluded with the key message that professional communicators need to advise their leaders to inspire all stakeholders, as it is these people that are pivotal the success or failure of any organisation, quoting a paradoxical statement often used in modern leadership “Follow me, I’m right behind you!”
November 30, 2010
Justin McKeown, now Regional Director of the global public relations consultancy Grayling, graduated with a first class degree in Public Relations in 1997.
It was fascinating to listen to his view on the changes in the PR industry over the last 13 years.
He started with an icebreaker activity, his own version of ‘The Generation Game,’ asking students to identify pictures, nostalgic and current. The message was to point out how cultures change over generations and to demonstrate the need to keep up-to-date and well-informed or be left behind.
Speaking more specifically of the changing world of communication, Justin said ‘YouTube is a mere five years old and is the most watched media channel in the world.’ He then discussed the demise of traditional print media with the example of how Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper The Times runs at a loss and may be scrapped by his likely successor James.
Justin then reminisced about the age of the fax machine and the inevitable end of the day queues to use it, outlining the constantly changing world (and the need to keep pace with it). In contrast, in the quiet early days of Twitter, Justin convinced Jonathan Ross to make a donation for a charity auction by simply suggesting so in a tweet.
Evaluation methods are changing too, with Justin describing the decline of AVE (advertising value equivalency) in favour the number of ‘retweets’ or ‘likes’ an article or blog post has received. Measuring online consumption is much more quantifiable than consumption of print media. He also commented on the growth in platforms of ‘mass coverage’ consisting of thousands of online outlets, the key point being you cannot stop information flowing.
PR today is much more about engaging in dialogue with customers and key influencers than the old style of: ‘I have something to say, you listen.’
“How engaged would you feel with someone who only spoke in press release format?”
Justin concluded by pointing out the transformation of media and the way it is distributed, noting that information flows in every direction (a far cry from Shannon & Weaver’s model) as well as advocating that the opportunities have never been greater for the PR profession.