Friday, September 11, 2009


There is a rare exception to the “do not speculate” rule in media relations. It relates to deliberately speculating about a future outcome to achieve a specific objective. In other words, you speculate because you’ve planned to speculate, you’ve war-gamed it out in advance, you’ve discussed the key messages you’ll use when you speculate and you have a good idea how the story will play out. It’s common to see labour unions speculate about outcomes if new contract agreements are not reached. It’s a deliberate attempt by the unions to move negotiations forward. Fair enough. Minister of Energy and Infrastructure George Smitherman did this with some considerable skill when he finally speculated about running for Mayor of Toronto. “It’s important to just take a look and see whether other options that are available might be well-suited for me and might contribute something to my city,” Smitherman told reporters. “There is a bit of a consensus forming in the city that the status quo is not getting the job done. I just thought it was important to publicly acknowledge that is something I’m thinking about.” Trust me, Smitherman did this very deliberately. He’s one of the best communicators in politics. And he did it to achieve certain objectives. And he did it very well. His speculation traveled forward the precise distance he wanted it to travel, and then stopped. It’s a difficult thing for inexperienced communicators to do effectively, but when well done, it can work.

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