By Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
In yesterday's Covid presser, NT Chief Minister Michael Gunner took a very Top End approach to dealing with some damaging rumours. While his style and technique surprised me, it was really effective so it’s worth adding to your playbook, and you can watch the key segment here.
For context this is the man who took on Ted Cruz in a Twitter spat last October. Which means he’s now a target for every hate group. So, his challenge is to get the message across to his Australian stakeholders without inflaming the haters to the point where they do more damage to his main audience.
I loved the way Gunner addressed the rumours without repeating them. It’s a balancing act to give enough detail to make it real without validating the misinformation by saying it. And he nearly nailed it (except for the bit about the ADF which I'll get to in a minute).
Gunner’s language was fantastic. Simple and colloquial, he signals authenticity and connects with his audience by using terms like ‘servo’, ‘arvo’, and ‘crap’.
Third party endorsement is always powerful, and quoting from the Traditional Owner’s statement on the issue was a clear winner. As well as his final line about protecting the world’s oldest living culture with “tens of thousands of years of history, law, custom and song to keep alive”.
What didn’t work?
I would have liked him to pull back on criticising the trolls. It was heartfelt and hilarious, but name calling always diminishes a message, especially from a leader.
Characterising them as “tinfoil had wearing tossers living in their parents’ basements in Florida” was perfect. But describing them as people “with nothing better to do than make up lies about us because their own lives are so small and sad” for me just crossed the line.
Finally, denying the rumour about the ADF carrying weapons jarred because he repeated the false information. I would rather he just told me what the ADF were doing – carrying food supplies – rather than state they are not carrying weapons.
While the Pollies have been honing their crisis skills with daily press conferences, if you’ve put your media and crisis training on hold for COVID you’re not alone. Contact us for some simple and effective ways you can get back on track.
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