Be prepared in order to avoid mistakes…and be prepared to manage the situation when you make them anyway.
Politics, paparazzi princesses, professional athletes…anyone who is in a position to present themselves to their communities needs to be prepared to manage their perception like any company manages a brand.
During last week’s republican debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry initiated a media frenzy with an embarrassing flub of forgetting a major portion of his political platform—an agency he would choose to remove from government.
With the question being a simple one in the realm of republican candidate conversation, many are asking how he could have made such a major mistake. What I think is most important in cases such as this is being prepared, before and after the presentation, speech, etc.
Pinpoint and plan against weaknesses.
It’s important to know any brand/brand ambassador’s sensitivities. If you’re presenting a plan and it’s easy to lose your train of thought, prepare talking points, a presentation, etc. If you need to use a mnemonic device or other tricks, find whatever works best for you. Maybe Governor Perry could have used the CEE acronym to help him remember Commerce, Education and Energy.
Get your story straight.
Be clear and consistent with platforms, processes, strategies and opinions. Your message should be communicated in a way the audience absorbing it can understand what you think and why. It’s hard for any American citizen to understand the platform of a politician who doesn’t get to the point and effectively deliver his/her message.
Be confident, but not arrogant.
Audiences need to trust major figureheads. As a spokesperson for a brand, idea or initiative, it’s important to convey confidence. Be cautious, however, of your confidence levels increasing too much. It’s possible to be convincing and gain respect if you have something to back up your big ideas. Be sure to cover all your bases.
It’s not just the mistake, it’s how you handle it.
Everyone makes mistakes. Even the most influential people in history have stumbled over a word during an address, mispronounced a name or made some other mistake they were probably kicking themselves for later. The impact of mistakes is truly made by the way the mistake is handled. Governor Perry can be seen all over trying to make light of his mistake, and while it is important to address it, it’s important to address it in a way that strategically improves the negative impact of the situation.
What I see as flawed in Perry’s post-flub strategy is the conversational, roundabout nature in which he is addressing the mistake during interviews. Late night hosts are making cracks about his list of excuses for why he forgot a major component to his political plan. If he’s clear, apologizes and reinforces the work he’s done to prepare for office, he won’t leave room for a snowball effect.
Practice makes perfect.
Presentations only get better the more you do them. What is important is consistently working to improve your skills and refine your messaging to make it more effective. A good speaker/presenter doesn’t become one overnight. But, by the time you make it to the big show, make sure you’ve worked out all the kinks.
Do you have other suggestions? Do you think an “oops” of this nature is enough to destroy Governor Perry’s brand/support?