Plan what to communicate
I always try to listen to people around me and understand what they are thinking as they speak. Watching humans express themselves can also be a great way to analyze their psyche.
For example, you could get an idea for a news peg from a question by a journalist. A CEO’s speech can give you an impression about the company he or she works with. You can also understand the maturity of a government by watching the people-in-position speak.
The idea and practice of communication through speeches and statements is not new. It has always been there, since our ancestors came to realize the importance of communication in their lives, in statecraft, and in business.
In the modern world, over the last few centuries, communication attained a special prominence when we developed a separate professional discipline for the persons who would specialize in communication. They analyze a situation and guide others on how and what to communicate to the world.
We have seen how a politician, a managing director, a prime minister, or a president may need their own communication advisors. Their past, present, and future depends on what they communicate to the world through their speeches and statements — written, audio, or video.
In fact, our life is built upon what we communicate to others. In our country, the art of communication is little respected. We hardly think about the impact before speaking or communicating our thoughts to others. Kindly allow me to cite a few examples from our public life.
Recently, Dhaka city-dwellers voted to elect the new mayors for the city. The turnout of the voters was visibly low; only 10 to 15 per cent of votes were cast. The candidates who won in the polls didn’t have much for gleeful celebration, as the majority of the voters didn’t vote.
Despite this fact, in his defence, a winning candidate reportedly said that the “voters don’t have interest because they know the country is developing.”
This is one of the hollowest statements that I ever heard from our political arena. It became clear that this new mayor hadn’t consulted anyone before he decided to say that. It sounded like a Trumpian statement.
This is where a communications professional could help.
Then, a day before the polls, one of the most visible politicians of the ruling party said that it was clear to him that their nominated candidate would win by an enormous margin. The time to make this statement, in my mind, wasn’t right.
He didn’t express his hopes for their candidate — he said he was sure about it.
Now, this leader holds a very high position in his party and the people of this country have an expectation that he might lead the nation one day. As a future leader of the nation, this person, I believe, needs to structure his speeches and statements wisely and strategically.
And that’s why he needs to consult someone, preferably a communications advisor who would also do the risk-analysis for him.
Take the present finance minister’s statement, for example. The London-based magazine The Banker has named him the “finance minister of the year” in the Asia and the Pacific region.
The minister reportedly claimed himself as the best finance minister in the world. Come on! When you’re given an accolade, you thank the world instead of boasting about yourself!
We should let others talk about our achievements. When we boast about our achievements, the success sounds quite shallow and less credible.
If this minister had someone to advise him, or if he listened to what his advisor had suggested, the statement would have been different, and the audience would have taken it more seriously.
The culture of listening to communications specialists is almost absent in this country. Many companies do have this culture, but that too is limited in crisis management — communications cannot play a very pro-active role when it comes to making external statements.
In fact, as a nation, we didn’t develop communications professionals across the sectors — not to mention in government level.
There are thousands of such examples across Bangladesh. The culture of not giving importance to communications professionals is rampant in our political arena, as well as in the government sector.
There are many benefits to planning external speeches with the help of professionals. There are things that should be said and things that should not be said. The what-not-to-tell part is often ignored in Bangladesh.
We go on saying what actually, in ideal situations, we weren’t supposed say. Most of the time, leaders don’t have any time to plan their external communication on their own; they require help. And that is where the role of communication professionals comes in.
The leaders would go many extra miles if they nurtured and listened to the advice of communications professionals. Many uncomfortable and embarrassing situations could be avoided.
First published in Dhaka Tribune.