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Sinn Fein's Michelle O'Neill should just be herself and stay clear of spin doctors

By Nick Garbutt

There are two potential explanations for why Michelle O'Neill speaks so slowly in Sinn Fein's party election broadcast.

It may be that she's one of those people who reads an auto-cue much more ponderously than she would normally speak. Or else she's been media-trained by her spin doctors who want her to come across as being more calm and measured in her tone.

Read Moire: Soft and slow...change of tone for Michelle O'Neill?

If the latter is correct, it is a mistake. Mrs O'Neill should ignore the Twitter jibes about her speaking like the 'Man from Strabane'.

The fact is that people increasingly like their politicians to sound as normal and natural as possible. And as both Nigel Farage and Donald Trump would confirm, if that also means that you make gaffes, even appalling, embarrassing ones, it doesn't stop them voting for you.

In fact, they may love you even more for it and blame it on the media if you really drop the ball.

Politicians are not generally trusted, and the more polished they are, the less plausible they seem to be.

Just ask poor old Mike Nesbitt about that one.

He had a career as a professional broadcaster. His soundbites were good and he was articulate to the point of slickness.

Fat lot of good that did his party in the Assembly elections.

Mrs O'Neill was not well known outside of Stormont before she was appointed Sinn Fein's leader in the north.

All new leaders need something that makes them stand out.

Her Tyrone accent and rapid-fire vocal delivery got her instant attention.

She came across as vivacious and energetic and was a big hit with the grassroots.

All politicians have media training, but not all of it helps.

The idea should be to bring out the best of what is already there, not coach you into pretending to be somebody else.

Have you ever wondered why so few politicians have genuine charisma these days? Ian Paisley, James Connolly, Enoch Powell and Aneurin Bevan were all from radically different political traditions.

And what did they all have in common besides their brilliant communications skills? None were subjected to media training by spin doctors.

Mrs O'Neill would do well to think on that.

She needs the sort of training that will help her to remain natural under stress and speak the way she always has.

If she slows down too much, she'll start to sound like a record played at the wrong speed.

Or maybe she's just a slow reader.

  • Nick Garbutt runs Nick Garbutt PR

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