What would make Minister Stuart Young think that he could call in on a radio programme last Friday—or any day for that matter!—and deliver his treatise without interruption? What would make such a thought even enter his brain?
Ignorance? Arrogance? Or is it, to follow the lead of the PNM Political Leader who has developed a penchant for coining new words, ignorrogance?
As far as I am aware, when you call a radio station, you have to abide by the station’s rules. Mariano Browne did not invite you, Minister Young; you invited yourself so you cannot expect to dictate the rules of the game.
Speaking of rules, I am not very clear on the rules by which the government can claim a certain amount of media time every month. What is clear, however, is that it is not relevant in the instant case. Government minister or no government minister, if you have not paid for the broadcast, you have no right to determine the rules of engagement. Not even to attempt to.
I liken Minister Young’s behaviour to his storming a fete. How he could vex if deh trow he tail out? He eh pay a cent so he eh ha no right dey!
From an etiquette point of view, he was completely wrong. It was intolerably ill-mannered to call in to the station and not want to engage in even the minimum of courtesies. As far as media engagement is concerned, it was also bad strategy, especially as no subsequent official explanation was forthcoming of what is actually happening with the CNC/NGC impasse.
And perhaps most tellingly for a politician, subsequent calls to the station say unequivocally that, even if he thinks he won the battle, he certainly lost the war. Callers expressed concern that there was not a full discussion about the implications of NGC cutting off the gas supply to CNC. If this is not resolved, we could crash the entire Point Lisas Estate because most of the plants will need to renegotiate their gas supply contracts soon.
Media Engagement 101 teaches you, Minister Young, that it is of no consequence whether or not you like the host or agree with what he thinks; you simply have no choice but to play by his rules.
You see, what matters is that Mr Browne has developed a loyal listenership over many years. His content is generally viewed as being informational and educational. It is beyond dispute that he has created a space for simple dialogue on complex economic and financial issues. Many see him as having demonstrated that his interest is in the country and not in any particular party.
And even if that were not so, you simply can’t behave as if you own the place. As far as we know, you do not.
If it were possible to wipe the slate clean and rewrite this horror story, there are five things I’d suggest you do. The first is to make sure that you are very clear on the reason for your action or what is your why. This is ultimately what becomes your key message.
Suggestion number two also has to do with your key message: don’t forget to summarize it at the end of the conversation.
Impatience and anger are definitely not assets during a public “appearance,” number three warns. You would be well advised to breathe deeply before you go on air so both disappear, even if they are present before you begin.
Number four is so obvious that I am a little embarrassed to add it here: stick to your script and keep the exchanges cordial and the conversation pleasant.
But all four of those suggestions become rather less important if you are willing to go with number five: have one of your functionaries call the host and ask politely if there is any objection to your calling in and making a contribution on the issue; the likelihood of aggro is then severely reduced.
Minister Young, you had an opportunity to provide clarity on an issue that can have broad, long-term implications for the development of this country. Instead, you chose the bully strategy, seeing that opening as an opportunity to stuff something down the citizenry’s throats. That is perhaps why you tripped over the issue of whether or not the matter is sub judice or merely confidential, which, you should know, some citizens will probably take to mean this: “We are not discussing this with you stupid people.”
Minister Young, your intemperance is just one more thread in the tangled web of government’s mismanagement in general and, in particular, mismanagement of its communication strategy—if we can be generous and say that one exists.
Minister Young, I have heard it said often that “who have more corn feed more fowl.” Given the feeding frenzy of 2010-2015 and the forced frugality of the current period, will incumbency guarantee you the advantage of superior corn stocks the next time the election bell rings?
Minister Young, communication has to convey the “corn” message. And ultimately it is the better communicator who will reach more of the citizenry. Our country continues to underperform and the legacy voters (i.e. those who provide your power base) continue to disappear. It is not hard to see people like you, who represent a cohort of failed young PNM politicians, waving the opposition flag.
After all—and I sincerely hope that you will prove me wrong—your presence has changed neither the game nor the methodology.
Not condemning, just commenting.
Editor’s note: The incident to which the writer refers occurred on Friday 26 January on the i95.5fm Friday morning show which Mariano Browne co-hosts with Ardene Sirjoo. Minister Young called in and, after fielding a couple of questions from Browne, attempted to read a prepared statement while Browne continued to fire questions at him. Young insisted on reading his text, Browne on interrogating him.
Neither man would give way and voices were raised. Browne eventually announced that he was not prepared to be bullied on his programme and the conversation ended.
It is unclear whether Minister Young rang off or Browne pulled the plug on him.