The 50,000 question – surely a case of simple arithmetic?

As car crash interviews go, this is one for the collection. Even the most ardent Tory voters would squirm watching Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan defend the Party’s flagship policy in its manifesto, launched this week, which involves adding ‘50,000’ more nurses to the ranks of the NHS within the next ten years.

The interview on Good Morning Britain became the Morgan v Morgan contest – Piers in one corner and Nicky in the other. And there was only one winner.

Nicky Morgan attempted to claim that it was indeed 50,000 extra nurses because retaining highly skilled staff – in this case 19,000 of the 50,000 so called “more” nurses – is a key part of any workforce strategy. Now, I was never great at maths, but I would have said that was 31,000 “more” nurses. This was the point made by Piers, when he said: “If you have 19,000 more already, how can it be categorised as more.”

Whilst a perfectly plausible response – and I don’t often agree with Piers Morgan – his namesake continued to go down the avenue of saying the Manifesto was very clear in that there would be 50,000 more nurses.

This is a case of PR messages going too far, trying to grab the headlines only to backfire spectacularly.

It highlights the need to put your best spokesperson forwards, think how messages will play out with target audiences and consider the sensitive lines of questioning they are likely to attract. It also demonstrates the need to respect your audiences. When you make big claims, such as 50,000 new jobs, you know you’re going to be quizzed about it.

While it could be asked why the Culture Secretary was responding to questions on the health policy aspect of the manifesto, this interview is a prime example of why you should always internally challenge messages that you’ve developed – ensuring that you don’t end up being challenged when they are communicated externally and ultimately risk your reputation.

As Piers Morgan concluded: “Viewers aren’t stupid, voters aren’t stupid. They see through this.” And that’s the point of well thought through messaging and well-prepared media interviews. It’s all about building trust, respect and credibility with those you are trying to convince.

To watch the Morgan v Morgan interview, please click here.

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