Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Talking points gone bad - The Jane Stewart award goes to. . .

I listen to the news and talk radio differently than the casual listener. I've prepared public officials for these media so I can recognize the telltale signs of preparation in what they say and how they say it.

If they have any talent and they are well prepared, it's a joy to listen to: concise, clear, informative.

If they have no talent and/or been badly prepared it can be torturous. Try listening to Natural Resources Minister Dunderdale with her "cross-sectoral" and "drill-downs" and "doing due diligence." She crams more meaningless buzzwords in fewer sentences than any minister I've seen in some time.

Does anybody remember the Jane Stewart/HRDC scandal? Who could forget the sight of federal minister Jane Stewart in a scrum repeating her same talking point over and over and over again like a mantra in response to different questions. She sounded like a broken record and in the process became the joke of the nation's capital.

Last night nearly 300 people crowded into the school's gym at Paradise Elementary to voice concerns on mould and to demand answers from Eastern School District education director Darin King. Apparently it's a big problem in the school. Walls have been torn out and you can smell a strong smell of mould as soon as you walk into the place.

All of Dr. King's public comments and media work so far indicates that he is badly implementing poor communications advice but the capper came last night where one notable exchange went as thus:
Todd O'Neill (a father): "Can you smell the mould?"

Dr. Darin King: "I'm not qualified to answer the question."

O'Neill: "You've got a nose, don't you?!?!"
This was just another manifestation of the same talking point he's been using all along - that mould is not his field of expertise and that he's just following the advice of experts.

But talking points are supposed to facilitate, organize and clarify the flow of communication, not impede it.

Dr. King must have missed that lesson.

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