The World’s Naughtiest Prime Minister
After his naughty TV swearing slip-up on the weekend, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd was visibly pulsating with illicit pleasure. He looked like a small boy who’d just discovered where his dad kept the Playboy magazines.
“I’m in real strife here, Lindsay, dig me out,” he beamed.
I’m one baaaad mother of a Prime Minister, he was thinking.
The studio audience of sacked Pacific Brands staff thought it was great.
Most people see the PM as a guy with the swearing vocabulary of Ned Flanders. If he’d said “goshdarn it to heck“, nobody would have been surprised.
These mild expectations gave his outburst much better impact, like Clark Gable’s “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn!” at the end of Gone With the Wind.
The arguments over whether the Rudd slip was pre-scripted will go back and forth, but so what if it was?
When you’re trying to communicate with any kind of audience, particularly in a situation where empathy is really important, it’s helps to show your human side - a point lost on most CEO’s after they’ve announced mass layoffs.
The swearing was a welcome relief to defuse a difficult situation that the PM isn’t going to be able to fix. If that was part of a plan, then well done for having a plan that worked.
According to those who were there, the sacked workers ‘felt like he actually cared about us.’
That’s an achievement for a proven language mangler. To pick a line at random from tonight’s news - “We’re in the middle of a jobs consequence flowing from the global financial crisis.”
Mistakes humanize us, particularly if you’re presenting from a position of power.
A lot of people plan their presentation on the premise of how can I avoid making any mistakes? The result is an hour or so of defensive dullness.
Much better to approach it asking how can I make this really interesting for everyone? and embrace the possibility of the odd mistake.