Does the Dalai Lama have a PR? Watching his interview on CNN, the most likely response is no. Or if he does, is there some deliberate policy afoot to connect with the public in a different way? Wednesday’s interview with host Piers Morgan was affable enough but may have left some of his admirers and followers wondering.
In a wide-ranging interview he discussed China, free speech, and ongoing protests by Tibetans. Describing the death of recent protestors as “very sad” he urged China to be more realistic when addressing issues of civil unrest. He also praised the Arab spring in principle, saying it was “very good”. Fine so far.
Then came the more personal questions asked of His Holiness. While celibate, he conceded he looks at women and thinks, “that’s very nice”. If tempted, he reminds himself, “I am a monk – I am always a monk.” Surprisingly, among the people he admires most, is George W. Bush. “Some of his policies may not be very successful,” the Dalai Lama conceded, “but as a person, as a human being, very nice person. I love him.” Who knew?
The PR Verdict: “D” for the Dalai Lama and the mystique of a spiritual leader. Accessibility and everyday observations, while making him approachable, inevitably distract from solemnity and gravitas.
PR Takeaway: Gravitas depends on a certain level of inaccessibility. It’s a tough call to be a spiritual leader while also being available for a lengthy friendly interview. The Pope and Queen Elizabeth learnt this long ago. Disclose little about oneself, and then only rarely. Above all keep it high level. As soon as a chatty interview strays into “loving” a still-polarizing former US president, the relationship between His Holiness’s followers and who they might imagine him to be, inevitably changes. What would the Pope and the Queen tell Piers in their interview?
To read and see parts of the interview click here.
What’s your PR Verdict on the interview?