The Leader’s Voice

The success of a leader relies a great deal on how well or how much he or she can convince, encourage, defend, represent, demand, enthuse, evince and reassure. What they say or write is a huge measure of how they achieve their goals.

At Portland we have worked with some very high-profile leaders in businesses, governments and other organisations, in the UK and around the world. This publication, though, is the first time we have taken a systematic look at what leadership communications is really about.

There will never be a truly settled definition of leadership communications, but it is possible to identify some of the categories into which it breaks down. So we have started by giving the Portland guide to the things a leader needs to think about and the threads that might tie them together.

Alastair Campbell worked at the heart of government for many years, and therefore knows more than most about political leadership. But his post-government career has seen him working with other types of leaders in business, campaigns, and sport. Here he gives us his insight into the mentality that makes for a successful leader – or in his words, a winner. Our guest contributor Ian King of Sky News is ideally placed to recognise which business figures can cut it on TV, and explains how good leaders get that right.

Two of our seasoned practitioners then share their thoughts to how leaders can overcome communications challenges – David Bradshaw’s guide to matching the right material to a convincing delivery, and Mark Flanagan’s tips for the social CEO. Caroline Edgar has plenty of expertise in recognising an authentic message, and an authentic leader. Ed Perkins, our recent acquisition from the Palace, provides his perspective on how the modern media environment can make communication more difficult, and how leaders can get around that.

Portland’s office in Washington, DC sees the worlds of commerce and politics come together. Lucy Bradlow rounds up ten lessons that business leaders might learn from the politicians.

To put a bit of data behind the opinion, we spent many weeks watching the media – UK and US, traditional and digital – even more closely than usual to understand how leaders engage, and how they come across. The findings, dotted through the document and in the pull-out infographic, tell us something about the things leaders find important, and something about the different audiences they are trying to reach. We have also provided our quick reference list of media opportunities for leaders looking to get their message over.

All of this adds up to a useful leadership communications handbook in its own right, but I hope it also gives you a good insight to the sort of work Portland does every day, something our own George Pascoe-Watson talks about in our final contribution. If you’d like to discuss how Portland can deliver for you, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

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