How NOT to apologise in an airline crisis

You couldn’t make it up if you tried. I’m not talking about the incident itself – Bloomberg reported that United is on a long journey to improve their service all round – but next week, @PRweek are awarding Oscar Munoz with the title ‘US Communicator of the Year’. In case you’ve missed it, here’s the video (courtesy of Business Insider): Munoz may have an easy rapport with shopfloor workers, but his team’s ability to handle crisis comms leaves much to be desired. Here’s the official response from Munoz to the ‘overbooking’ of Flight 3411. “This is an upsetting event to all of us here at United. I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers. Our team is moving with a sense […]

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I’ve rewritten your speech, Mr. Pacino.

Inspiration comes from many places when you’re writing a speech for a politician. So let’s try this: an imagined speech supporting a Brexit motion – and the speech as it would be given by Al Pacino. Add the appropriate content, follow the same structure. There’s a natural synergy between screenwriting and speechwriting. It’s often not what you say, it’s knowing who’ll be delivering the lines that will inspire your writing and give your speech the right impact. As the trainer, in Any Given Day, Pacino’s challenge is to rally the troops. They were all trying to get time with the ball, and – even though they were all supposed to be running in the same direction – their focus on individual […]

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I’ve rewritten your speech, Mr. Banks.

And again, here’s my rewrite of Arron Banks’ open speech to Paul Nuttall on 27th February. Why rewrite this one? Well, this an open letter. It works in much the same way as an important speech. It’s a broadcast, and you hope you’re talking to everyone, but you don’t have a clue who your audience will *actually* be … which is all the more reason for a little more rhetoric in your reasoning. So: If you’re talking to a person, or people, about people, it’s a good idea to keep the focus on – people. If you’re keeping track of these new speeches as I’m doing them, then you’ll know my politic is my affair, but your speeches are my […]

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I’ve rewritten your speech, Mr. Blair.

So here it is: here’s my PDF, rewriting Tony Blair’s Rise Up Speech – as given at Bloomberg, on 17th February. Why rewrite it? Well, this version redresses the balance between substance and soundbites. Mr. Blair’s speech was all substance, no soundbites. That makes it hard to get a reaction – or results. If you’re covering a subject this pervasive, and important and complex … if your speech poses 50 – excellent – questions… then your primary target audience won’t have the inclination and your Daily Mail readers are unlikely to have the intellect to react the way you’d intended or hoped they would. Sometimes it’s not a speech, it’s headlines ABOUT a speech that have most impact and provide greatest momentum. If you’re reaching out to millions […]

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I’ve rewritten your speech, Mrs. May.

If you’ve arrived at this page via LinkedIn or Twitter, you know the score. This is the first in a series of posts, ‘hacking’ important speeches of our time, with no apology at all to the speechwriters involved. I’ve rewritten a speech, given by Mrs. May. It was used to introduce a White Paper describing the UK’s departure from the EU. Why did I rewrite it? And the White Paper that followed it? Because it’s a great example of how badly a speech translates to the printed page… and why that matters so much.

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Copywriters’ Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in submitting a final draft – even if it is the seventeenth version and you thought you’d nailed it the first time around. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with the person who sends you a brief. Speak your truth quietly; clearly; listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have a reason for making the long list of features mandatory and cutting that list of unbelievably attractive benefits ~

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