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Recording a video message? Six mistakes made by the Conservative leadership candidates … and six things they got right. 12 July 2022

If you’ve clicked this link, it’s because you realise that to get your messages across these days, it’s a video link that has the power.   Written blog posts like this are becoming rather quaint.  

But now that you’re here (and I’m delighted that you are) let’s have some fun looking at what those Conservative MPs hoping to be Prime Minister got so badly wrong in the campaign videos they produced.   I hope my thoughts may come in handy if you’re preparing a video of your own. 

(And because I’m a fair kind of guy, and programmed to be impartial, let’s think about what they got right too.)

1:  Rishi Sunak

coded message:   I’ve got a heart-warming story 

catchline: “Ready for Rishi”

duration:  2 mins 58 seconds 

MISTAKE:  if you’re using an autocue, don’t stand so close to it.  You can see his eyes swivelling.  This tells me two things about Rishi.  He’s got loads of money (though I think we knew that already.)  And he’s not quite as authentic as he’d like to be.  If you’re telling your personal story, you don’t need an autocue. 

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND … it aims to tell a story from the start, and from a communications point of view that’s textbook. 

 

2:  Penny Mordaunt

coded message:   It’s not about me  

catchline:   “Our leadership needs to be a little less about the leader, and a lot more about the ship.”

duration: 3 mins 08 seconds 

MISTAKE:  if you’re going to use images of famous successful people in your video, implying they are on your team, at least make sure those famous successful people want to be on your team.  It swiftly turned out that the Paralympian Jonnie Peacock (MBE) didn’t, and his Tweet demanding to be removed from the video got far more hits than the video itself. 

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND:  there is a hint of modesty about this video.  Penny Mordaunt resists appearing until the very end.  A very rare trait that could contrast reassuringly with the previous incumbent of No 10.  Unlike … 

 

4:  Liz Truss

coded message:  it’s all about me 

catchline:   “Trusted to Deliver” 

duration:  1 minute 51 seconds 

MISTAKE:  in a video communication from a candidate aspiring to a leadership post, you expect to see images of leadership.  But there is a point at which that can tip into sheer tin-ear vanity.  I reckon this point is reached in around the 14th of the 29 shots of the Foreign Secretary meeting, greeting, speaking, listening, posing and posturing. 

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND:  of all five videos, this ticks the widest range of boxes.  The music isn’t too irritating, the voiceover is hers (not a luvvy voiceover artist), and the production team have added subtitles. 

 

5:  Tom Tugendhat

coded message:  I really can’t be bothered with any of this video nonsense  

catchline:  (there doesn’t appear to be one)

duration:   1 minute 14 seconds 

MISTAKE:  it’s startlingly humourless.  Tom Tugendhat is a genial MP — I’ve met and interviewed him for BBC News.  He’s charismatic and no-nonsense.  Yet he delivers his message in a monotone, deadpan style, devoid of humour or charm.  It doesn’t reflect him and the authentic warmth he might bring to the role of Prime Minister. 

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND:  there’s none of Liz Truss’s vanity or Rishi Sunak’s sentimentality.  This may show a shrewd understanding of what the audience of Conservative Party members actually want to see. 

 

5:  Rehman Chishti 

coded message:  vote for me, I’m edgy

catchline:  (there doesn’t appear to be one) 

duration:  3 minutes 14 seconds 

MISTAKE:  it’s okay to be down-with-the-kids, but it’s surely not wise (when running for Prime Minister) to be as unprofessional as the incumbent.  Rehman has chosen to film his rambling message on his phone and without bothering to use a cabled microphone (available online for around £40).  Unfortunately the camera is the wrong way around, and it’s a windy day.  The overall effect is amateur, sloppy, partially inaudible and comical (but not in a good way.) 

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND:  it’s certainly authentic. 

 

6:  Grant Shapps

coded message:  let’s get this over with fast

catchline:  “I can help you win your seat”

duration:  20 seconds

MISTAKE:  by using a Tik Tok approach — fast graphics and funky music — Grant Shapps risks alienating his non Tik Tok generation audience of MPs.  

BUT ON THE OTHER HAND:  of all six videos, this is the most surprising and refreshing.  I was one of the first people to interview Grant Shapps as his political career began in the North East in the late 1990s — he struck me as fun, a bit lightweight for serious politics, but laser focussed on the TV audience he wanted me to provide him with.  This video’s catchline — “I can help you win your seat” — demonstrates that laser focus once again.  


A final, personal thought: 

I’ve tried, in true BBC style, to be fair (as well as fun) in these thoughts.  But I can’t resist ending with this suggestion. 

With the possible exception of Grant Shapps’ video, I’m not sure that any BBC, Sky or ITN producer I’ve ever worked with would have let them go to air.  

From the Chancellor’s bungled use of an autocue, to Penny Mordaunt’s editorial carelessness, Liz Truss’s robotic cliches or Rehman Chishti’s technical sloppiness, they all demonstrate to me an indifference to professional standards that simply wouldn’t be tolerated in most newsrooms. 

A reassuring sign for me as a communications consultant, perhaps, that thirty years as a journalist may mean I have something to offer anyone who wants to connect with an audience in an authentic and professional way. 

Want to have a go reading the news?

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