Monday, May 10, 2010


This week's perspective from Bob Reid:

The stronger the language, the more attention you’ll get: that’s the general rule of thumb for those who communicate through the media. But I’ve gotta say, I have never made that observation in the context of a page one F-bomb before. Conservative Senator Nancy Ruth took the limits to a whole new level this week when she now infamously told a group of women’s issues activists to “shut the f*** up” about the Harper government’s refusal to support abortion-related initiatives as part of its support plan for women’s health programs in the developing world. It should be noted – and, in fairness to the media, it was very widely reported as such – that Ruth was sympathetic to the pro-choice view of the organizations she was addressing, so her blunt directive was designed to be helpful advice, not a scolding rebuke. But by including the expletive, Ruth broke a cardinal rule of communications: never let your tactic overwhelm your message. As soon as she, ahem, went “blue,” the focus was immediately put on how she said it, rather than what she was trying to say in the first place. And despite the clarity in most media reports regarding her position on the issue at hand, the overwhelming impression was one of bully pulpit as opposed to frank yet friendly advice. A second Fumble goes to Ruth for assuming that she was speaking to a private meeting and could therefore speak freely without concern about her words becoming countless front pages. Admittedly, I’m assuming that’s what she assumed, but either way it goes to show that in this day and age where every cell-phone is also a camera and probably a video recorder, no public figure can ever bank on their comments being securely out of the public eye. Unless they are only talking to their mom … but even then, better check her purse.

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