Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
"Disarray". It's a gentle and quaintly archaic word. It was also the single most-quoted takeout from a media conference held in Canberra yesterday.
The word appeared in The Australian, Business Insider, Business Spectator, The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald. Even SBS and the ABC found it irresistible.
It’s all the proof you need that strategic colour supporting a clear view is a trump card when playing media poker.
Big Four accounting firm EY wheeled out their chief bean counter to flog what, from a reputational perspective, was a pretty high risk report.
EY could have been savaged for seeming to criticise the government, but instead they carried the day, largely due to their use of ‘disarray’ which focussed reporting on the main story.
The word treads a fine line – it’s powerful and descriptive enough to achieve cut through without being offensive.
Think that’s a no brainer? Contrast ‘disarray’ with Ukraine Foreign Minister Andriy Deshchytsia’s use of the word ‘khuilo’ - a Russian swearword translated as ‘f — er’ or ‘dickhead’. Better still watch the video here.
While that word attracted international media coverage, the reporting was focussed on the offence it caused. The colourful language backfired completely as it made Minister Deshchytsia look vulgar and childish.
We know journos are drawn to colour like moths to a flame. Dry and complex language won’t cut through, and too much colour drowns out your message.
Arm your spokespeople with strategic colour and you control the way the media report your work.
What should you do?
1. Have the quote (and headline) you want the journo to have clear in your mind before you do an interview.
2. Test your quote with your thought partner – does it tread the line between colour and controversy?
3. Deliver your colour with passion – bring it to life so it jumps out of the interview and onto the screen or page.