There’s no shortage of people who go on TV and radio and accidentally spark controversy by not properly thinking through what they say before being interviewed.
Alas, the most notorious of them – such as Prince Andrew on the BBC – have historically made it big in the “how not to do it” category on The Doddblog.
But in this issue, I’m focusing on a smaller set of people – such the recently-fired British Home Secretary, Suella Braverman – who deliberately say controversial things for the purpose of generating uproar.
My professional advice is that making comments with the aim of deliberately causing a stir on volatile subjects for its own sake is typically unwise.
Of course, there are times when very touchy subjects do need to be properly addressed – ideally thoughtfully and wisely.
To prepare for such situations, communications-boosting training sessions are there to help you to courageously and effectively achieve your aims.
The guiding principle I work on – when clients are poised to venture into volatile subjects – is to aim to generate a lot more light than heat.
To achieve this, it’s not just a matter of working out what you say before you jump in and say it – important though this is.
It’s also a matter of also ensuring that you’ve decided what your intention is before venturing before cameras, microphones and important audiences.
If your intention just to cause a stir for its own sake – or to get publicity purely for the purpose of getting publicity – it’s generally best not to proceed.
But if you’re seeking to give your perspective in order to help people better understand a vexed but vital topic – and to move things in a desirable direction as a result – then you’re on much more positive ground.
This topic of publicity-seeking controversialists has erupted because of one British political figure who has – clearly on purpose – been setting out to cause one stir after another through a series of highly contentious remarks.
Conservative Party MP, Suella Braverman, has now been removed from the British Cabinet by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak after repeatedly – and seemingly knowingly – using her previously-held high office to make a string of recklessly controversial statements of questionable accuracy.
In fact, before her dismissal, The Guardian newspaper described Ms Braverman as being “seemingly unable to walk past a political dispute without stirring the pot”.
It was Suella Braverman who defined the arrival of foreign asylum seekers in small boats from the French side of The English Channel as “the invasion on our southern coast”.
It was she who called on charities to stop providing tents for the homeless – claiming they often end up “occupied by people, many of them from abroad, living on the streets as a lifestyle choice”.
And it was Suella Braverman who described demonstrations triggered by the latest violence in the Middle East as “hate marches”.
Her final controversy before she was removed as Home Secretary was fuelled by an article she wrote for The Times – which she refused to adjust ahead of publication despite a request from the Prime Minister.
In the article she accused London’s Metropolitan Police of “playing favourites” by allowing a pro-Palestinian demonstration to go ahead in London on 11 November.
Because Suella Braverman’s remarks have been offensive to so many – I have decided not to include the video links to her various controversies mentioned above.
But rest assured you can easily find them on YouTube and in online reports from British newspapers.
You can check out what’s been described as her “poison-dripping” letter of resignation – written after she was fired by Rishi Sunak- here:
Political commentators have viewed Suella Braverman’s addiction to controversy generation – together with her embittered “resignation” letter – as an attempt to position herself as a future Conservative Party Leader and British Prime Minister.
If the old cliché about “any publicity is good publicity” were true, then she might indeed be heading for 10 Downing Street.
However I suspect the reckless way she’s gone about her vitriolic self-promotion exercises mean they’re destined to undermine her ambitions.
To shift away from the focus on calculated negativity, let’s now look at an impressive example of how a highly volatile subject can be more thoughtfully and delicately addressed.
It appears in a video from someone who tends to approach things very differently from Suella Braverman – by tackling controversial issues with the aim of fostering audience enlightenment, rather than overtly seeking self-publicity.
The example is from former U.S. President Barack Obama who manages to address the dangers of tackling Middle East challenges with heroically positive intentions.
Barrack Obama makes the challenging case for pursuing long-term peace between Israelis and Palestinians despite all the current violence.
In doing so the former president seeks to guide others on how to communicate effectively amidst high emotions – without being sucked into the vortex of negativity.
By communicating with a deep understanding of the difficulties involved, Barack Obama demonstrates that discussing such matters in a constructive and caring way really can be done.
He even has some excellent advice for others seeking to address the dream of bringing about Middle East peace.
He urges addressing the topic without “confining ourselves to our outrage”.
As he chooses his wise words, Barrack Obama points out the difficulties of confronting incendiary Middle East issues from the platform of social media outlets.
Ironically as he grapples with the difficulties of dealing with Middle East conflict from a perspective of peace, he’s actually doing it on the TikTok social media platform.
But as a master communicator, the former president manages to use his TikTok appearance to convey profoundly valuable messages about how to approach the challenges of discussing the Middle East while playing a part in seeking to move things in the direction of peace, understanding and positive progress!
Judging by Barrack Obama’s demeanour and his ability to take responsibility for his own (small) share of the current Middle East problems, I think it’s fair to say his intentions are good.
Mercifully I find that the intentions of my clients seeking to address tough topics also tend to usually be good.
But do be aware of that old proverb – seldom heard these days – that: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”
Genuinely good intentions do make for a great starting place when addressing controversial subjects.
But in communications training sessions we seek to thoroughly test out what you wish to say and how you impart it in order maximise your prospects of bringing about your desired result.
By doing and reviewing – while replaying and analysing how you look and sound with the help of a videographer – we can ensure that you’re armed with the best possible content, structure and delivery style for when you’re in those crucial professional spotlight moments.
The full range of communication-boosting services available – including media interview response techniques, presentation training, and help on giving great answers to tough questions – is set out at:
And if you’re thinking of tackling a volatile topic – with the best of intentions – feel free to get in touch to discuss getting you in the right place for success.