The contest to become PM has become fractious, with more focus on the negatives than the positives. What are the communications lessons for those leading non-political organisations?
1. Don’t criticise your competitors – it makes both of you look bad. Almost as soon as the campaign got under way most of the leading candidates quickly fell into making digs at each other, some of which got very personal and pointed. Nobody emerged with any credit, and this continued as the contest narrowed down to the final two. In the corporate world, anyone asked about competitor companies or products would be best advised to be gracious, and avoid mentioning them by name if possible. Say little – be courteous, but after all you can’t speak on behalf of someone else so don’t try. Focus instead on what your own organisation is doing.
2. Don’t avoid answering relevant questions. The air started to go out of early favourite Penny Mordaunt’s campaign when she appeared on TV debates and wouldn’t answer questions on what she would do if she gained the keys to number ten. Instead she appeared evasive or lacking a coherent plan, and viewers drew their own conclusions. So, don’t prevaricate – people will not be impressed. A degree of honesty about tough issues gains you credit.
3. Communications skills matter. At the time of writing Liz Truss is favourite to win the contest among party members and become Prime Minister, but whether she can convince the electorate at the next election will be a different matter. Her stilted speaking style has been much mocked – just to take one example, more than half a million YouTube viewers have grimaced at her awkwardly proclaiming her progress in ‘opening up new pork markets’. If the skills of public speaking and being interviewed aren’t your strong suit, get some high-quality training!