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Liam Neeson, Cold Pursuit, top ten pink elephants

Top 10 Pink Elephants of 2019 (so far)

Don’t think of a Pink Elephant.

We don’t want you to think of a Pink Elephant.

Thinking of a Pink Elephant would not be a good use of time.

So don’t think about it.

What are you thinking about?

The science behind it

Pink Elephant Communications, top ten, media training in glasgow

Your brain makes the connection between “think about” and “Pink Elephant”.

The “not” remains abstract, and you’re left with the image.

Don’t think about Big Ben.

Don’t press that big red button.

It’s impossible to not consider it.

The Pink Elephants we refer to in our media training and presentation skills courses.

They represent unnecessary negatives.

And all around us, people are telling us what they’re not thinking about.

Or not doing.

They’re speaking in Pink Elephants.

Sportspeople, politicians, actors and celebrities, they’re all guilty of it.

As you’re about to read.

In doing so, they’re creating in our minds the exact opposite picture what they actually want us to see.

So, counting down our Top Ten Pink Elephants of 2019 (so far).

10. Netflix

Netflix, top ten pink elephants, media training in glasgow

In March, Netflix cancelled its show One Day At A Time.

In a series of tweets, the streaming service explained its reasons why.

This went down badly.

Part of the reason was the defensive nature of the tweets.

Which left the totally wrong image.

Netflix told Twitter:

Netflix One Day at a Time, Pink elephants

Now what are you thinking?

9. The EU’s Michel Barnier

EU Michel Barnier, media training in glasgow, Stealing brexit

Brexit was, of course, going to appear in this list.

There have been plenty of Pink Elephants thrown around.

But one of the most high-profile ones came from the EU in response to criticism from Nigel Farage.

EU Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier came out with this:

“No one in Brussels is trying to steal Brexit from you.

“No one is trying to undo the vote.”

Don’t think of Brexit being stolen.

It’s not happening.

8. Fit For a King’s Ryan Kirby

Fit For a King, Ryan Kirby, Pink Elephants, media training glasgow

Let’s start with some personal insight.

I’m a huge fan of Christian US metal band Fit For a King.

Here’s one of their great, relaxing songs.

Ryan Kirby is their lead vocalist.

And similarly to Netflix, he decided to use Twitter as his platform ahead of announcing a new tour.

But instead of the image of a band on the rise, we got this.

Fit for a king, twitter, media training in glasgow

Now what are you thinking about the band?

7. Love Island

Love Island, media training in glasgow

Love it or loathe it, British reality show Love Island is back on TV.

But the show has come in for a lot of criticism.

Mainly over its alleged lack of diversity and body types.

The show’s makers had to respond to the backlash.

And in an interview with the BBC, creative director Richard Cowles said this:

“We’re not saying that everyone that’s in there is how you’re supposed to look.”

Well, it sounds like you do now.

6. Game of Thrones’ Fabian Wagner

Game of Thrones, media training in glasgow

Game of Thrones, S803 The Battle of Winterfell, HBO

This juggernaut of a television show came to an end in May.

Season 8 was its most divisive yet.

Episode 3, in particular, was its darkest.

And I mean that literally.

The episode titled ‘The Battle of Winterfell’ came in for sharp criticism.

Mainly because viewers, myself included, were unable to make out what was happening.

Step forward Game of Thrones’ Fabian Wagner.

As cinematographer, he shot the episode.

And he hit back by saying:

“Personally I don’t have to always see what’s going on.”

Your audience watching at home strongly disagrees.

Followed up with:

“A lot of people don’t know how to tune their TVs properly.”

Thanks, Fabian.

5. The Scottish Football Association

Scottish Football Association, media training in glasgow

The Scottish Football Association have had a rocky few months.

An embarrassing 3-0 defeat to Kazakhstan.

Followed up by a laboured 2-0 win over tiny San Marino.

A manager sacked and a new one brought in.

And in among it all, a new slogan to encourage the Tartan Army.

But what happens when a photographer takes a snap at the wrong moment?

SFA nothing matters, media training glasgow

Nothing matters.

A dose of harsh reality from the SFA.

4. Scotland manager Steve Clarke

Steve Clarke, Scotland manager, media training glasgow

Sticking with football.

Steve Clarke’s appointment as the new Scotland manager was welcomed by everyone.

He’d turned struggling Kilmarnock’s fortunes around in remarkable fashion.

Scooping up numerous awards.

And recognition from fans across the country.

Supporters waited eagerly to see his first Scotland squad.

In it were a number of Kilmarnock players.

Clarke held a press conference to discuss his picks.

And he produced a perfect Pink Elephant when talking about his squad.

“People will look at it and probably think, ‘he’s just picking players from Kilmarnock for the sake of it’.

“It’s not true.”

Strange, I was thinking they were picked on merit.

Now I’m thinking differently.

3. Strictly Come Dancing’s Darcey Bussell

Darcey Bussell, BBC Strictly Come Dancing, media training glasgow

The global behemoth known as Strictly Come Dancing is still going strong.

Part of that is down to the rapport between the judges.

Darcey Bussell had been one of them for seven years.

But in April, she announced she would be leaving the show.

Let’s go to her statement to find out her reasons.

“I am not leaving because of any upset or disagreement.”

Your audience now believes you are.

All thanks to an obvious Pink Elephant in the quote.

2. Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson, Cold Pursuit, Pink Elephants, media training glasgow

Promoting your new, action-packed Hollywood movie should be easy.

Unless you’re Liam Neeson.

In doing the media rounds for his film Cold Pursuit, the Northern Irishman told a story.

About how, 40 years ago, he roamed the streets looking to kill a black man.

I’m certain his reasons for telling this story came from a good place.

But of course, you could see the reaction coming a mile off.

Fans and media outlets were outraged.

And in responding to the backlash, Liam Neeson came out with an inevitable Pink Elephant.

“I’m not a racist.”

What are you thinking about Mr. Neeson now?

1. Theresa May

Theresa May, Pink Elephants, Brexit, media training glasgow

The former British leader at 10 Downing Street is our number 1.

Brexit has remained firmly in the headlines in 2019.

As has Mrs. May.

The stories may have changed daily.

But the heart of the issue is still the same.

It’s Britain leaving the European Union.

Strange, then, that this happened during a Prime Minister’s Questions in May.

Where Theresa May said this about Brexit:

“This is not an issue about me.”

What image are you left with?

Sure enough, less than a month after saying that, she announced her resignation.

The solution

The Solution, Pink Elephant top ten, media training in glasgow

So what can we all do about it?

It’s simple.

Tell people what is the case.

When asked if you agree with something and the answer is ‘No’, then say no.

Move on to what you want to say.

Here are some alternatives.

“I picked those Kilmarnock players on merit.”

“I’m leaving Strictly to pursue other interests.”

“This is about Britain leaving the EU.”

Telling people what is the case puts the correct image in their mind.

And it accurately represents what you actually believe.

Only ever use positive words, especially in difficult situations.

And see where it gets you.

Have any others to share? Leave them in the comments below.

Or email us to book a media training in Glasgow, Edinburgh or wherever you are in the world.

And see how these work in real life.


Colin Stone is a Senior Trainer at Pink Elephant Communications in Glasgow.

You can read his full profile here.


Photos by Valdības māja / CC BY-SA / Kevin Cortopassi / CC BY-ND / Glyn Lowe Photoworks / CC BY / EU2017EE / CC BY on
Photo of Steve Clarke courtesy of Clyde Superscoreboard.
Photo of Colin Stone courtesy of Robert Wilson.

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