The more the best of a communicator speaks, the higher the chance of making a mistake that would end up attracting maximum attention. For this reason, every strategic communicator knows when to speak and when not to speak.
As a political communicator, especially having an opportunity on an opposition platform, there is the tendency of being pushed to go overboard.
I am not, and have never been a believer of the school of thought that one would only be best at what he or she studied in school. For that matter, communication, like other professional jobs, could equally be exhibited by people who have never sat in a communication class.
However, for one to be better at it there are a few things anyone seeking to communicate for an organization and especially a political party must take into consideration.
We live in a country where party activists would miss no opportunity speaking to the microphone when thrust before them no matter the issues at stake.
We equally live in a country where media houses are quick to mobilize people onto their talk shows without much attention to the quality of the programmes they broadcast.
To this end, people are invited into studios without knowledge of what they are to discuss, and without being informed ahead of time. When you turn them down, they beg you to try and help them. I would return to this topic at an appropriate time.
To be a good communicator in your little corner on radio or TV:
1. Ask for topics for discussion ahead of time, if possible, a day ahead. This enables you to build some confidence ahead of time. You are able to take the opportunity to seek answers to some possible questions that may come up. You are able to position your arguments in a context that would bring you out as someone who has a fair appreciation of the subject.
2. Research on the topic provided for discussion. Here, gather every available literature on the topic, read them, understand the issues, arrange your thoughts, convince yourself, and you are good to go. The focus should be to show depth rather than seeking to win arguments over your opponent(s) in the studios. The availability of Internet today should make your research easier than it used to be. This is an important aspect of communication you cannot brush aside and still hope to make an impact.
3. Understand the purpose of the station. Aside the general and notable objectives of radio and TV stations which are to Inform, Educate and Entertain, we know many media houses are political tools for political parties to shape views of listeners as they feed them with information. It is important to know if it is a partisan political station, or a neutral station. That would guide your choice of approach equally. You cannot seek to do pure and open politics on a station that seeks intellectual analysis on issues. That does not mean arguing without objectivity if it favours a political party.
4. Understand the audiences. You must do a fair assessment of the calibre of listeners the station have. Knowing this would enable you to choose your words and the examples to use to be able to get to your audience. Your audiences may have greater ideas on the topic you are to discuss. You are likely to express your ignorance to them and that would no be a fair assessment of you. Work at that.
5. Know when to say no to some discussions and suggest others to take your place on certain topics. As a communicator, you cannot assume to know everything. Even times when you are briefed, you may fall short of appreciating some important and technical issues. Know when to allow others to stand in for you. In the end, you help the group put its best foot forward with superiority.
6. Never seek to win arguments in a studio. It must be understood that listeners are aware of the truth. Sometimes, what they want is additional information and not because they are ignorant on issues placed before you. Their knowledge comes out of the availability of various sources of information which you might not even be aware of. Some of them are experts on issues that are laid before you. What should matter to you is how to tell your angle of the facts and move on. Never attempt to win an argument because the other party is not in to lose either. That is a safe angle to dabble in insults and attacks and voicing of issues that are unnecessary that would succeed in taking the centre stage pushing the beautiful arguments into insignificance.
7. Respect your fellow panelists even from opposition parties. It is a sign of arrogance on your part and an act of disrespect to your listeners. Remember, your listeners are under no obligation to like you, but may like your message. In the same light, they may not hate the other party you attempt to look down on. When you are tagged to be arrogant and disrespectful, you lose the base and you may end up communicating to no one.
8. You must be flexible while in the studios. You must always update yourself on issues at the least opportunity. Questions may come up out of your presentation or issues that may break out while in the studios. You must always be smart in thinking to be able to do that. To be able to do that effectively, you must always use any little opportunity to read wide and prepare your mind to be analytical on issues.
I am with the view that, if we are to get our communication right, our attitudes must be right. You cannot measure your effectiveness as a communicator by the number of times you appear on TV or radio, rather, you can measure your performance by the level of sense you make when you speak.
Admit your limitations and learn to get others to step in for you. The over all focus of the organization must be your guide. Just as you can contribute to it, understand that others are equally standing by to help contribute to it.