One of the first things drummed into aspiring actors is the need ‘to command the space’. They learn that this calls for stage craft and it calls for emotional intensity and presence. It is the latter that tends to distinguish the great from the good.
Everything has now been written about Margaret Thatcher. As an orator she does not compare with Obama. She could not work a room like Clinton who made whoever he was talking to feel like the only person who mattered. A skill he can also bring to the public stage. Nor did she have the folksy charm of the great comunicator, Ronald Regan – a special relationship.
However in her inimitable (but much imitated) way she was a hugely effective communicator. She had a sense of drama and was tuned to the theatre of politics. She, more than any of her rivals, knew how to command the space. Whether the conference platform, the Front bench, a television studio or a walk-about she commanded the audience expectation before she spoke.
As a supreme professional she worked hard on the craft, playing brilliantly her take on ‘woman in a man’s world’. She fashioned a signature look of suits, blouses, hairstyle and handbag. As journalist Liz Jones wrote: “She proved you didn’t have to dress like a man to be powerful….always feminine, always meticulous about her appearance…said to have invented power-dressing yet her look was always controlled. This was not vanity, it was focus, her attention to her image.”
The same focus embraced advice from the ablest communication experts Gordon Reese, Tim Bell and Maurice Saatchi, pioneered the photo opportunityof hard hats and boiler suits (plus handbag) and handled the tough task of modulating her voice. She created the most recognisable political brand since Churchill.
And that’s what powerful brands do. They command the space- on shelves, on table tops and in the high street- and people reach out for them first, confident in what they offer. The truly great brands however are built on more than craft. Take Nike where an attitude, first expressed as”just do it,” has inspired global success.
Margaret Theatcher’s craft played its part, right down to the handbag, her Nike swoosh. But it was, of course, through her personality and presence that she exerted such command.
“She conquered the world through the passionate strength of her conviction.”