British Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech was closely watched by the media. Speaking at the Conservative Party Conference, she was to offer the vision of the “British Dream”. It turned out to be a media nightmare.

The gallant Mrs May endured a terrible cough, and struggled to speak. A prankster added to the drama. Mrs May took all that with good humour. Her speech attracted pretty good coverage from the media, but for all the wrong reasons. You can check out the video here:

In this age of social media, the adage “any publicity is good publicity” is not always true. Going viral – the holy grail for many public relations team – is not always a good thing. Mrs May’s eventful speech reminded me of another media boo boo in March this year.

You may not remember Professor Robert Kelly from Pusan National University. But if I were to mention “the kids that walked into a live interview on air”, I think more than a few will go “Ah!”.

In March this year, the BBC did a live interview with Professor Kelly, on the fall of former South Korean President Park Geun-hye. As the good Professor spoke, his child walked into the room, and into shot. Then his second child came in, then came his wife. Professor Kelly tried very hard “to keep the show on the road”. That interview went viral almost immediately.

A good communications effort requires a lot of work, planning, and preparation. Content is paramount. And so are considerations like channels and platforms, delivery and presentation, timing, plus tracking and analyses of your efforts. And for a live event, “mundane” stuff like lighting, sound, stage, props, security, etc, cannot be overlooked. Do not mess with Murphy’s law. You need a good, experienced team to look after everything.

For Professor Kelly, the interruptions turned out to be a blessing of sorts. BBC did another interview with him and his family, and they had fun. Some of my friends from the TV media were envious. They wanted something similar to happen on their show.

For Mrs May, the repercussions are more serious. Some say the interruptions were symptomatic of the problems in the Conservative Party. Others challenged Mrs May’s leadership.

For every important person out there who has a message to convey, do remember that when everything proceeds smoothly, it is because the professionals worked very hard to make sure the show goes on as planned. It is not worth regretting later.

Danny Lee

  • Director for Strategic Partnership, dREP