A charisma lesson from Boris Johnson

By August 13, 2012Guest Blogs

Charlotte Gould writes some thoughts on the London Mayor’s ability to create effective PR.

As an intern at Present.me I get to become a guest blogger this week and as a politics student, I thought I might take a political angle in the midst of all the Olympic fever.

No one can deny that, due to London hosting the 2012 Olympics, Boris Johnson has been thrown into the national spotlight. Whether this is a good or a bad thing, Boris has continued to provide the people with controversy and amusement. Most recent events include his hugely public suspension on a zip wire and his statement that the women’s beach volleyball team were ‘glistening like wet otters’.

This prompts questions:

How did Boris secure his second position as Mayor despite declining Conservative support? Why are more papers than ever alluding to his future in Number 10? And why do the public continue to overlook his inappropriate and untimely gaffes?

According to YouGov, the answer is very simple: charisma.

When asked which politician has the most amount of charisma, the public scored Boris higher than any of the party leaders and Tony Blair. (He also beat Gordon Brown but, given that according to the Independent he led the most unpopular Labour government in history, I don’t consider this to be a startling discovery). 70% awarded Boris various amounts of charisma, with 20% giving him “a great deal”. Although it is true that the success of the Olympics and the GB Olympic team will have buoyed Boris’ national status, these figures come to you from before the start of the games.

Interested in why Boris was hailed more charismatic than both the current Prime Minister and the most successful Labour leader ever, I looked into what qualities the public believed to be essential in deeming someone charismatic. YouGov asked the participants to rank 5 qualities 1-5 out of a possible 28, and the following 4 stood out as the most popular:

  1. Being a “natural leader” was ranked first by 51%. Not only has Boris managed to win his second term as Mayor this year, but he has led an internet sensation following his zip wire video being posted on YouTube.
  2. Sticking “to what he/she believes in” received 40% of people’s first choice. It is clear for any of you who have waited on a train platform and been subjected to Boris’ “get ahead of the games” announcement time and time again, that he certainly is a man who perseveres when there is a point to be made.
  3. Being “decisive” took 36%’s number one spot.
  4. Being a “good talker” was ranked first by 28%. No one can doubt Boris’ ability to talk (this is what seems to get him in trouble most of the time). He also has appearances on various talk shows such as the Late Show and the Daily Show.

It would seem that, thanks to these qualities, no one remembers that unfortunate time when Boris offended the entire nation of Papua New Guinea by linking it to “cannibalism and chief killing”. In fact, the time when Boris dismissed his 250k salary as “chickenfeed” during the economic recession seems nothing more than a distant memory. This teaches us that next time you make a mistake or say the wrong thing, fret not. Look confident, be passionate, speak loudly and clearly and, like Boris, all will be forgiven.





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