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Case Study - Gillian Keegan
Navigating the PR Maze

Let's talk about the spotlight—sometimes it's your best friend, and other times it's that high-beam glare you just can't escape. Gillian Keegan, the UK Education Secretary, knows a thing or two about that these days. Whether you're gearing up for a big keynote or you're knee-deep in a media storm, Gillian's recent experiences offer us some valuable takeaways.

News Cameras

Setting the Stage


First, let's set the stage. Gillian's been dealing with a crisis around unsafe school buildings—a hot topic, to say the least. But what's really caught our attention is how she's communicated during this time. Raw, unfiltered, and at times controversial, her approach begs the question: How much authenticity is too much?

Read the full Guardian Article Here

So why should you, as a speaker (or anyone in the public eye), care about this? Well, it's a stark reminder that every word you utter can and will be analysed, especially when things get heated. Gillian's case shows us the risks of straying too far from the script, but also the potential upside of showing your human side.

"a stark reminder that every word you utter can and will be analysed, especially when things get heated"


Navigating PR is a bit like walking a tightrope. One misstep can cost you, but too much caution, and you risk appearing robotic or insincere. Gillian's story also highlights the need for a united front when you’re part of a larger organisation or team. Your message shouldn’t just resonate—it should align.


So, let’s unpack this media storm and see what gems we can dig up. Because remember, the best lessons often come from watching others dance in the spotlight….


Impressions of Gillian Keegan


Defiant and Resilient: She is has been projected as someone not afraid to stand her ground. This could be a strength, but depending on public sentiment, it could also backfire, making her look insensitive or arrogant.


Unfiltered Communication: Gillian's candid remarks reveal that she’s more off-the-cuff than calculated. While this makes her human, it could also make her look unprofessional and rash.

Critical of Media: The labelling of reporters as “sensationalists” suggests her disdain for how the media has been covering her. This sets up an adversarial relationship that's a double-edged sword in publicity.


Inward Focus on Decisions: Gillian is portrayed as confident about her decisions, stressing that she made the "right decision." However, this inward focus without acknowledging public concern could read as tone-deafness.


Witty but Possibly Tone-Deaf: Her humour ("Devil Wears Prada does politics") can make her relatable but could likely be seen as inappropriate given the gravity of the Raac issue affecting schools and safety.


Putting it Right....


Message Clarity: The first thing is to clean up the messaging. Focusing on clear, well-articulated statements without provocative or sensational language would be my starting point.


Media Relations: With her apparent current disdain for media, a revised strategy to mend this relationship should be in order. We can’t underestimate how vital this is. Traditional press releases, or even an exclusive interview could help reframe the narrative.


Humanise Without Undermining: The public often appreciates raw emotion and authenticity, but it has to be balanced. The 'hot mic' moments can be humanising but shouldn't cross into unprofessional territory.


Feedback Loop: We'd also be collecting data on public sentiment to gauge the effectiveness of our PR efforts. This will give an insight into what we might be missing.


Crisis Communication Plan: Given the ongoing issues with Raac, a comprehensive crisis communication strategy should be developed and implemented immediately. 


Introspection: Gillian needs to acknowledge mistakes or shortcomings without laying blame elsewhere. This would make her appear responsible and mature in handling crisis situations.


Cross-reference Government Narratives: There are conflicting narratives within the government itself (e.g., Rishi Sunak’s stance on funding). Aligning these narratives or at least providing clarity on her part would be helpful.

Leadership In Crisis


How Gillian handles this situation is also a microcosm of leadership under crisis, and brings home the importance of crisis management and authentic yet thoughtful communication.


But why is this crucial? The answer is simple: Public speaking is not just about avoiding pitfalls. It's about owning your space, commanding attention, and making a lasting impact. 


At 360 Speakers, we equip you with the tools to not just survive the public eye but to thrive under its gaze.


Reach out if you need us - we have your back!


N.B While our case study centres around Gillian Keegan's current experiences, it's important to acknowledge that she has a challenging role with many responsibilities. Our focus here isn't to critique her decisions as Education Secretary but to emphasise the critical importance of communication and leadership skills. These skills are not just a "nice-to-have" but essential in building public trust and effectively navigating crises, whatever your role may be.



September '23


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