Confidence is an acquired skill. Despite what you may be told, no one is born with it.
Yes, some people are extroverts. But that does not mean they are confident. It comes with wealth, education, experience and status. But it does not come free with every first breath and smack on the backside.
It is also something that you can easily lose down the back of the sofa. This is something that is often hard to admit. Especially if you are seen as an alpha-male/female in your field and in your life. This, somewhat surprisingly for me, is where I come in.
Now, I’m not that hot on Latin. Wrong school. But I do know the phrase Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, or ‘who watches the watchmen/who guards the guards’. I have become the one who advises the advisers (or advisors, if you prefer). Never something I set out to do, but becoming trusted counsel is a journey rather than a destination.
I have sometimes tried to figure out why experts hire me to offer my inexpert opinion on their field, or why industry-leading names get me to calm their nerves and help plan their next move. It is not a service that I have ever advertised. It is just something that happens. Sometimes it is word-of-mouth, others it is the evolution of an existing work relationship.
I know that a lot of people are currently doubting everything, re-planning their career (often in their 40s/50s/60s) and looking at how their work can, erm, work now. So, I’m outing myself as someone who has been everything from alpha male shoulder to cry on to someone who can focus on re-invigorating your offer with you. Imagination, future-focus and ideas are a part of it. But openness on both sides is paramount.
It is not counselling, but it can involve some tough love. And no, I can’t tell you who my clients are. If you think this may be for you, then please do get in touch on email@example.com.
Nature abhors a vacuum. Rolling news channels abhor one even more. Yet, during the last week of the pandemic one has been allowed to exist.
Midweek, the government abandoned its daily press conference. This was an odd piece of timing, coinciding as it did with the easing of lockdown, a mini-heatwave and the continuing Robert Jenrick scandal.
With this in mind, the Labour Party could do worse than take on this slot themselves. Like him or not, Keir Starmer is topping polls as a potential Prime Minister and this could be a chance to cement that position. Throw in health, home office, education and business/treasury shadows and you have a five-day schedule that will raise awareness of policy, present a leadership model and expose shadow ministers to the nation.
Now, there is no obligation upon broadcasters to take such a conference (and indeed they probably won’t take every one). But it allows a daily voice as well as the chance to react to government policy and current events.
The slot would offer a daily rebuttal of any government-announced or -leaked stories, as well as a chance to present the daily Covid-19 figures, from infections to deaths. It presents the official opposition as in control and would allow them to present policy and at last answer the question of what they would do better. This was a real problem under the press office of Seumas Milne, with the leader then (one J Corbyn) hardly being allowed out of his allotment shed.
Starmer et al could, for a time at least, present the most harsh and even outrageous critique of the government, with the PM’s only option to be reactive or to slowly reintroduce the daily press sessions, complete with journalists in the room. It’s a win-win.
Starmer is famously ‘forensic’ (although this is not always apparent from his responses at PMQs beyond some performative shows of lawyering) and this would give him the chance to dig into figures, stats, policy and personality.
It would certainly beat a push-up contest with the PM (who I doubt can get past five).
The Government’s crisis comms policy on Covid-19 has been a disaster. I have seldom seen crisis communications done more worserer (yes, I know that is not a word – but I didn’t want to swear). Even Comical Ali had a shred of credibility.
It started off as a mix of rumour and briefing chosen journalists, in the hope that their ‘government source’ stories would nudge the population into action. Instead, it just made them panic-buy loo roll.
People called for decisive comms and public information. What they got was an always-late 5pm (ish) daily press conference. They also got what may be the worst public information broadcasts since AIDS was sold as some kind of actual scary monolith with the voice of 1984‘s John Hurt.
These broadcasts feature a random grey-faced middle-aged white man in a tie, who, it turns out is the Chief Medical Officer. Who knew? Well, largely no one if they weren’t a journalist, civil servant or fan of the daily broadcasts. if they’d stuck a white coat and stethoscope on the guy then he may have had some traction. But he already looked a bit peaky, even before it was confirmed he was isolating with symptoms of the coronavirus.
Of course, it is easy to say that this is no time for a celebrity-led campaigns, but it is celebs who are helping to drive campaigns for PPE or free meals for NHS staff. These are not even the really big names. Idris Elba, who has already had the virus, would certainly draw attention to any messages around health or social distancing, whilst any of the TV doctors would far better than an anonymous-looking representative.
Rishi Sunak is the one cabinet member who has come out of this well, so far. There have been declarations of love from lefties, calls for him to be the next Prime Minister and even surprise from these quarters. After all, he performed like a barely-sentient android during the general election campaign. He seems to have been limited to financial announcements, lest he look too much like a natural successor to Boris Johnson.
While the PM recuperates and self-isolates we are faced with the prospect of listening to Michael Gove on a regular basis – a man who couldn’t even make cocaine abuse look mildly distracting. When most memes in your name are about what an unrelatable and disliked oddball you are then you should probably not be sent out to reassure the nation.
On the face of it, the government comms cock-ups are amusing – simply more fodder for Twitter amusement (guilty). But we are at a point where each person listening could save a life. We need clear comms from government officials, but we also need clear public health messages from someone relatable, believeable and who garners respect. You may have your own call on who that is. But I’d be interested to know.
We are all social distancing now. It’s the Charleston of the 2020s. Unfortunately, the messaging on what distance to keep apart has not been that clear. So, here is my idea for a new measurement of social distancing. The Osman. The Pointless brainbox is famously tall at 2.01m, making him an ideal marker. Maybe we can spraypaint his likeness on park pavements or even high streets. Stay safe out there!
Many construction workers would have been sat having their tea or as well-deserved can as the UK government was finally nudged into announcing a lockdown last night. It was something that doctors, unions, ambulance drivers, nurses, service-industry workers and retail employees countrywide had been calling for all week. Some, many politicians included, had been calling for it all month.
But, these same construction workers were left confused and cut-off by the government’s comms policy, along with all those involved in building or maintenance work.
Were they key workers? Was that block of flats necessary? And who is going to pay the sub-contractors and self-employed if the building works cease? What about on-site canteens, bathrooms and handwashing facilities?
Michael Gove sought to clarify and just confused everyone further still. He simply told everyone to stay two-metres apart, having obviously never seen a building site or its workings. But this is fairly standard for this government. Every message has to be amended, re-jigged and sent out again, until it sticks or is withdrawn.
As someone who works a lot in comms for and around construction companies, builders, architects and developers, I am seeing plenty of frustration out there. Plumbers don’t know if they can mend a tap, carpenters don’t know how to stay two-metres away from their mate and brickies don’t know whether to lay down their trowel.
Site builders are more than familiar with PPE and on-site safety, but even that cannot stop the spread of Covid-19, just as it cannot stop the spread on the way in on the trains and tubes. They are inevitably putting each other at risk and others at risk, too. But they need to know that they are financially secure.
Meanwhile, developers and site managers don’t know how and if they can pay their teams of contractors and sub-contractors. If work stops then does their bank pull the plug? Who owes what to whom?
There is now a whole new list of things that those in the construction and maintenance sector need clarification on. A lot of those in the industry are already living week-to-week. They need more than Universal Credit to get by, that is for sure.
For a government that has been accused of being all message and all substance then they need to at least get the messaging right, or the health of the industry and the nation will both suffer.
It’s time to close the sites and provide financial assistance at every level.