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Boris Johnson, answering a journalist's questions, the moral authority

The moral authority

We do it all day long.


It plays out like a card game.

Where you have to trump your opponent’s hand with something even better.

We have a name for it at Pink Elephant Communications.

It’s called taking the moral high ground.

So how do you capture it when convincing a client of what you’re offering?

Or convincing colleagues of the benefits of changes ahead?

Or answering a journalist’s questions?

Read on.

Whose side are you on?

EU flags, the moral authority, answering a journalist's questions

There’s a reason Brexit has been going round in circles for three years.

Like a rabid dog chasing its own tail.

And it’s because several arguments appear to claim the moral high ground:

“Over 17 million people voted to leave Europe…”

“People were misled over the facts in the referendum…”

“The people of Northern Ireland need assurances there will be no hard border…”

“The people of Scotland voted to remain in Europe…”

“As an MP in a constituency that voted to leave, I’m honour-bound to respect the voters’ wishes….”

Everyone is claiming the moral high ground.

So whose camp should we join?

To feel good about backing someone, we need to feel justified in backing their cause.

Protected by the moral high ground.

Shielding us like a bullet-proof vest.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson promised to take us out the EU on October 31.

So the moral authority lies in him keeping a promise.

Even if he has to suspend parliament.

Or announce his intention to call a general election.

But wait a minute.

Some MPs say that’s immoral.

It’s a coup d’etat.

It’s a slap in the face of democracy.

So who has the moral authority?

Let’s take some simpler situations while you work that out.

1. Facing the media

Ban Ki-Moon, facing the media, answering a journalists questions

There’s an important thing to remember when answering a journalist’s questions.

It’s their job to confront you with a contradictory position.

To test your arguments.

It’s your job to win the argument.

By capturing the moral authority.

Some arguments are straightforward:

“This is good for employment in Edinburgh.

“This service will help people in Aberdeen greatly.”

Or with doctors I was training this week in Glasgow:

“We need to spend more time helping patients with more complicated health issues.

“Adults struggling with alcoholism, drug addiction and depression need care urgently.”

I put forward the view that those who frequently miss GP appointments should be penalized.

They countered that those who frequently miss appointments stand a much higher risk of dying younger.

And therefore need our help even more.

So they won the argument.

And seized the moral high ground.

2. Making a presentation

making a presentation, whiteboard, answering a journalist's questions

Most people make a presentation at work to explain what’s changing.

But if you want to convince your audience, capture the moral authority:

“This new system will make your clients easier to manage…”

“Submitting your expenses on time will mean you’re reimbursed more quickly…”

“The job losses are necessary to keep us competitive…”

Too often, presenters explain what’s in it for them.

When they need to explain what’s in it for us.

And it’s the same as answering a journalist’s questions.

You need to be able to justify your position.

By putting forward the better argument.

3. Pitching your business

Answering questions from journalists, media training, what can i guarantee, pitching your business

At Pink Elephant Communications, our pitch is very simple.

Our presentation skills courses will help you make compelling presentations.

Our media training courses will give you the confidence and techniques to handle the media well.

And our assertiveness training will help you get what you need by acting confidently and politely.

They all have the moral authority.

So what’s the moral authority of your business or service?

Ask how what you do makes people’s lives better.

Then watch adverts to see how each company seeks out the moral authority.

Is there an alternative to promoting the moral high ground all the time?

That’s like asking if there’s an alternative to driving along the Louisiana Highway.

Yes, there is.

You can drive into the adjacent rivers or swamps.

And in parts, that’s all there is off the highway.

So keep on the Louisiana Highway.

Keep to the moral high ground.

And you’ll find people willing to follow.

Now, if you can find a moral authority solution to Brexit, send you answers on a postcard to:

Mr B Johnson
10 Downing Street

The best answer wins an exciting weekend in Brussels.


Bill McFarlan is co-Founder and Executive Chairman at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by BackBoris2012 / CC BY-ND / TeaMeister / CC BY-NC on Trend hype.

6th September 2019 Featured in: Blog, Media training blogs By:

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