Should leaders write their own stuff?

Should leaders write their own stuff? And other important questions …

For executive communicators, things are tough all over—even Down Under.

When a former prime minister declared that the current prime minister should hire a speechwriter, it made all the papers in Australia. Objecting to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s fractured use of the language—we’re talking, “national complimentarity” and “we must hasten slowly”—his long-ago Labor predecessor Bob Hawke diagnosed the problem: “He may have spent a little too much time on writing his own speeches,” he told Melbourne’s Herald Sun.

But then Rudd’s speechwriter surfaced, and The Australian reported that scribe Tim Dixon “writes a perfectly lovely speech, as do other colleagues in the PM’s office. Until Mr. Rudd gets his clunky control mitts on it.”

And then we get this sort of thing: “By immediate, I mean immediate. Immediate means now. It’s ready to go now.” Not Dixon’s work?

“Oh no, that’s Kevin,” a Labor staffer chuckled. “We slap our thighs and say ‘oh no.’ There’s a cringe factor.”

When a former prime minister declared that the current prime minister should hire a speechwriter, it made all the papers in Australia. Objecting to Prime Minister Kevin Rudd’s fractured use of the language—we’re talking, “national complimentarity” and “we must hasten slowly”—his long-ago Labor predecessor Bob Hawke diagnosed the problem: “He may have spent a little too much time on writing his own speeches,” he told Melbourne’sBut then Rudd’s speechwriter surfaced, and reported that scribe Tim Dixon “writes a perfectly lovely speech, as do other colleagues in the PM’s office. Until Mr. Rudd gets his clunky control mitts on it.” And then we get this sort of thing: “By immediate, I mean immediate. Immediate means now. It’s ready to go now.” Not Dixon’s work? “Oh no, that’s Kevin,” a Labor staffer chuckled. “We slap our thighs and say ‘oh no.’ There’s a cringe factor.”

If you’re speaking of influential executives, as we’re wont to do, you can’t overlook Google CEO Eric Schmidt these days.

A member of President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team, he’s giving speeches and sounding optimistic notes in a pessimistic climate. The U.S., he told a crowd at the New America Foundation in November, “has the intellectual foundation, leadership and literally the people in the room not just to solve problems but build a better place.

“A hundred years ago, nobody had information. Now all of you are significant users of the Internet,” Schmidt pointed out. “In our lifetime, almost all people will have access to almost all the world’s information. That’s a remarkable achievement on par with Gutenberg.”

He went on to explain his belief that technology can play a part in “generating short- and long-term economic and job growth that can help pull the nation out of financial turmoil, and restoring public trust in government.”

We came across a useful blog for CEOs and their communicators: “The Corner Office,” where business journalist Peter Galuszka and business consultant Steve Tobak regularly take on “the big questions facing CEOs, boards, and shareholders.” Find the blog at: http://blogs.bnet.com/ceo.

Famous President Clinton lawyer Vernon Jordan has published a book of his speeches. It’s called Make It Plain: Standing Up and Speaking Out, and it’s available in hardcover for $24.95.

How do you get started writing speeches?

Former Fred Thompson speechwriter Mike Long said in a speech that he got his start by writing to speechwriters whose work he admired and asking them for advice:

“It turns out that speechwriters don’t get a lot of fan mail—which means if you write to them, they will write you back.”

How does political leadership depend on communication?

In a Huffington Post analysis of the fall election, Emory University communication professor Drew Westen summed it up succinctly: “Messages matter. Compelling narratives, carefully crafted one-liners, and pithy phrases are no substitute for carefully thought-out policy positions if you want to govern well. But carefully thought-out policy positions are no substitute for compelling narratives, carefully crafted one-liners, and pithy phrases that capture the essence of your values or vision if you want to govern at all.”

Optimistic thought for executive communicators in the New Year: In good times, money talks. In bad times, leaders have to communicate. At TIE, we wish you a stimulating and prosperous year.

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