Do you ever wonder why seemingly intelligent people sometimes make a complete mess of their communication efforts?
More specifically, can you imagine what has enticed a traditionally anti-terrorist British Conservative MP to make a video praising what he claimed to be recent progress being made under the brutal regime of the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan.
Shockingly the MP was once a captain in the British Army.
And to undermine his anti-terrorist credentials, his brother was killed in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali.
The MP released the highly controversial video – complete with an upbeat musical soundtrack – despite the Taliban rulers’ notorious hard-line fundamentalist approach which repeatedly shows its leaders to be opposed to female education and many other basic human rights.
Against this background, you may also ask yourself how the British MP could possibly make an almighty train crash of trying to apologise for creating his Afghan video in the first place – before suddenly announcing during a heated interview that he would remove it from the internet?
I am not in a position of having specific insider information on such a question in order to shed light upon the answer.
But I can suggest that monumental communication disasters such as this often result from a lack of proper thought and preparation – before, during and after their execution.
The seeds of the unthinkable video were sewn during the current tour of Afghanistan by the Chair of the UK’s Parliamentary Defence Select Committee, Tobias Ellwood.
Mr Ellwood has been carrying out the Afghan tour together with some other members of his committee.
On seeing the video before its abrupt withdrawal, some defence committee members who are not on the mission – including a few from Mr Ellwood’s own party – were so outraged at the video’s content that they’re now seeking to remove him as their chair.
And because the video has been condemned by so many people – including outraged Afghan women through to Mr Ellwood’s fellow British parliamentarians across political parties – it’s no longer easily found on the internet.
However a tiny bit of the video remains available online within an interview which Tobias Ellwood has done for Talk TV with Piers Morgan.
Mr Ellwood has, as he should, admitted his mistake in making the video right at the outset of the interview.
He says he takes responsibility for it.
But he does, rather unwisely, get very stroppy at being asked questions about why he made it – as if the video were made by aliens and planted on the web against his will.
Be warned that both the excerpt from the contentious video – and the Talk TV interview about it – are painful to watch.
So feel free to just check out the start, rather than putting yourself through the whole excruciating experience.
If you find yourself, like so many others, asking how Mr Ellwood could possibly have released the video in the first place, one possibility may well be that he didn’t run it past any other people – who’s judgment he respects – before he unleashed the video on Twitter.
Assuming this theory is true, it underlines the point that it’s often hard to see yourself – and detect the impact of what you’re saying can have on audiences – unless you pro-actively seek out the perspectives of others.
This is why communication training sessions can be so valuable for you and/or key members of your team before you announce anything that’s big and new.
I often involve a video camera operator in such sessions – allowing you to see and hear yourself as others see and hear you – BEFORE it’s too late.
Communications-boosting sessions also help you ensure that participants properly do their planning and preparation before undertaking any proposed important communication for real.
This applies whether the sessions are about presenting with confidence, impact and pizzaz; recording a video, being interviewed by the news media or facing up effectively to tough questions from clients, prospects, officials and members of the public.
Such sessions also reiterate the value of running your planned communications past others, whose judgement you trust, before you try them out for real.
Before every issue of this communications-boosting e-zine comes out, I always seek to ensure that others scrutinise it first.
This includes running it past an anonymous individual we can refer to here as ‘Grumpy Phil’.
A ‘Grumpy Phil’ figure needs to be a highly observant, astute and meticulous individual.
My ‘Grumpy Phil’ (being impersonated by this low-budget dodgy lookalike artiste) likes to portray himself as being an easily outraged killjoy who – when his eagle-eye spots something potentially dubious – has steam coming out his ears!
In truth, my ‘Grumpy Phil’ is actually quite the opposite – endearingly self-critical and remarkably civilised….even when Australia retains The Ashes on English cricket fields thanks to the usual Manchester rain.
I’m always aware there’s a possibility that something could be lurking in every draft e-zine which can be enhanced as a result of some precautionary questioning before it goes out.
It could be that I’ve incorrectly deployed word “practice” with a “c” when the context means it should be “practise” with an “s”.
Or it could be something EVEN more serious!
Reassuringly I know that ‘Grumpy Phil’ will always alert me to it before it’s allowed anywhere near you.
If you’d like to explore communication-training sessions for you and/or your team, check out the range available at:
Tobias Ellwood MP could certainly do with some sessions.
He would also benefit from having his own ‘Grumpy Phil’ to run things past next time he considers making another video.
You too may well benefit from having some communication-boosting sessions focussed on your team – and also discover your own ‘Grumpy Phil’.
I can provide the communication-boosting sessions.
But you’ll need to find your own Grumpy Phil!!!