Posts Tagged ‘David Murray’

“What kind of people are they working for?”

Vital Speeches' David Murray

Vital Speeches’ David Murray

David Murray’s official titles include Editor, Vital Speeches of the Day and Vital Speeches International, as well as Executive Director of the Professional Speechwriters Association. But for me, his most important role has been as the kind of observer and critic every profession needs – offering good humored but pointed praise, prods, advice and critiques of the work we scriptwriters-for-others do.

While I was working with a client who was hesitant to begin giving speeches to employees, I stumbled across a blog post David did a while back, modestly titled Murray’s Manifesto.

What exactly, Murray asked, do employees want to know from their top executives?
Murray made his answer pretty darned clear.

“They want to know what kind of people they are working for.
Let me repeat: They want to know what kind of people they are working for.
That’s all they want to know: What kind of people they are working for.”

In particular, they want to know how smart their leaders are, how honest, empathetic, forward looking, and committed to their employees.

The challenge, of course, is that it is not enough for top executives simply to have these qualities, they must also convince key audiences that they do.

Which brings me back to one of my all-time favorite quotes, which I trot out at least once a year. It’s from Mike Daniels, the former chairman and chief executive of Network Solutions who sits on the board of directors of CACI International and many other technology companies.

“It’s remarkable,” Daniels said. “If you have two growth companies headed by equally smart guys, where one can deliver an enthusiastic speech, lay out the mission of the company and encourage people to work smarter and harder and the other can’t…it makes a world of difference to the success of the company.”

Too Many Wrong Kinds of Speeches, Too Few of The Right Ones

CW imagesDavid Murray — editor of Vital Speeches of the Day, executive director of the Professional Speechwriters Association, and a friend– has a great piece in  IABC’s Communication World Magazine. He argues that leaders are “giving far too many of the wrong kinds of speeches, and far too few of the right ones.”

The problem is that CEOs and other top executives don’t yet realize role of a leader’s speech “has changed as much during the last decade as it did during the last several centuries.”

The advent of modern communications technologies means it is no longer necessary for a leader to go in front of a group of people simply to convey information. YouTube, blogs, on Twitter, and other social media channels can do that really, really well.

Instead, Murray says, leaders should stand at the podium only when they have an urgent message to convey to a crucial audience. Sadly, most leaders don’t take that approach, which is why we’ve all had to sit through boring presentations, rambling on-stage interviews, and deadly PowerPoint talks.

Interestingly, master communicator Lee Iacocca understood the difference between the right kind of CEO speech and the wrong one, long before the social media age.  In 1994 he wrote, “In every speech I give the object is to motivate. You can deliver information in a letter or tack it on a bulletin board.”

 

Once in a Great While…the Speechwriter as Hero

GARDEN2Let’s face it, while I believe speechwriting is a noble profession, it’s not heroic. Every once in a while, we summon the courage to stand up to a boss or client to fight for a phrase or a line or an approach, but we’re not in the business of putting our lives on the line.

However, David Murray, Editor of Vital Speeches of the Day found a fascinating and rare instance where a speechwriter really did take heroic action. The speechwriter was Edgar Jung, who in 1934 was working for Franz von Papen, Adolf Hitler’s vice chancellor. Though Hitler was in power, he had not taken absolute control, and it still appeared it might be possible to stop the Nazis.

Murray quotes a long passage from In the Garden of Beasts, Erik Larson’s terrific book about prewar Berlin, that describes how Jung got von Papen to give a bold speech in the German capital criticizing the Nazi’s actions and calling them “doctrinaire fanatics.” The speech received thunderous applause.

Unfortunately, despite the courageous act it was too late to stop Hitler. Two weeks later the Nazis launched the infamous Night of Long Knives. Edgar Jung and many other critics of the Nazis were the murdered.

Many thanks to Larson for recounting that fascinating story, and to Murray for highlighting it.