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Mis-Communicator of the Week: Mike Coupe

If you work in communications and don’t know what he did wrong, then don’t admit this to your boss. Or look for a different career.

It was so bad I had friends emailing me saying, “he’s got to be your Mis-Communicator of the Week”. And they don’t work in communications. But they were right and Mike Coupe, Chief Executive of Sainsbury’s is indeed this week’s award winner.

But why was what he did this week so bad? Singing “We’re In The Money” while sat on camera waiting to be interviewed might be amusing but wasn’t it the journalists who were in the wrong for releasing the film?

Yes, the journalists were naughty - in this case ITV - but they were just doing their job which is to get a story or tell a story that appeals to their audience. Mike Coupe on the other hand was not doing his.

His job was to represent Sainsbury’s and himself to the best of his ability and ensure that the agreed corporate messages, regarding the proposed merger between Sainsbury’s and Asda, were delivered in a compelling and relevant way.

Instead, he undermined the corporate message that the deal was going to be good for consumers by lowering prices, feeding into the perception that the deal was good for the bosses - and their bank balances.

So what are the lessons we should all take from the singing CEO:

1. From the first moment you are in the presence of a journalist to until you are out of ear or camera shot assume anything you say or do could be used in the story;

2. You may be giving 15 interviews in a day (as I believe Coupe’s was) and it’s your job to be as fresh, energetic and focussed in the last as you were in your first;

3. Know your purpose. Then remind yourself of this before each and every interview. This will help you to stay focussed but, if you self-evaluate between interviews instead of letting your mind wander, will also help you to keep improving your performance;

4. Think about your ultimate audience (for Coupe staff, customers and shareholders in that order) rather than the journalist you are talking to. It is your ultimate audience that matters so give relevant examples, tell stories that connect you and them, maintain the tone that is appropriate to them (the musical 42nd Street isn’t it) and please: no jargon.

Mike Coupe failed on all of these measures which is why he is our Mis-Communicator of the Week.

Mis-Communicator of the Week is written by Edward Staite

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