Donald Trump’s wife Melania spoke at the Republican Convention, and according to the New York Times her speech veered off course and caused an uproar. That’s because a section of the speech shamelessly plagiarized a convention speech a couple of presidential elections ago given by Michelle Obama.
This should never have happened, and could have been entirely avoided by implementing best practices for content development and document version control. I’ve written scores of executive speeches, and there are standard workflows and processes that hold editors accountable for their revisions and ensure that someone is accountable for the final product.
A couple of days after the media brouhaha, a Trump employee named Meredith McIver claimed responsibility for lifting content for this “innocent mistake“. A staff writer and former ballerina, McIver somehow allowed content from Michelle Obama’s speech to be adopted nearly verbatim into Melania Trump’s speech, and apparently nobody in the campaign vetted it before she delivered it.
Speechwriting is a difficult and often thankless task, but it requires the adoption of accepted standards for version control, fact checking, source attribution, clarity of language and compliance with messaging standards. I’m amazed that a mistake like this can happen in a major national speech, there are just too many checks and balances built into the speechwriting process to allow it to occur.
The political world can learn much from the business world, where speeches are clearly defined, vetted, and rehearsed, and accountability for changes is ensured by consistently implementing best practices for content development.