Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where News Messaging and Marketing Intersect

The "firewall" that separates news content and marketing statements is distinct. One deals--or should--in facts, while the other is typically a promotional medium where fact often is either displaced by, or blended into, aspiration.

However, there’s a very definite and important intersection between news and marketing when it comes to media training and coaching executives in the art of interacting with news people.

That intersection is frequency. Part of a good marketing program is repetition; making sure target audiences are exposed to the message often enough that it gets through. We all are exposed to so many messages today, it takes a strong one to make an impression, and usually only after a number of times seeing and/or hearing it.

Bad or false messaging both in marketing or news content can kill an image (product, service, position, etc.) very quickly. Good messaging typically takes longer to connect. Hence, the need to say it, and say it again.

Messages must be relevant to your target audiences, are usually positive in nature, and true. News people are loathe to hearing slogans. They listen for quotes and information that are provable and strong, and help them tell a good story.

But they also want answers that are responsive to their questions. The answers do not have to validate the questions, but they do need to be relevant to the question, even though your response is (and should be) on your terms, and from your perspective.

After you've developed your messaging, employ the marketing tactic of frequency and consistency. The more your same messages are being reported consistently, the greater your chance of leaving the lasting impression that helps persuade your target audiences to enable you to reach your business goals.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Believable Apology

While apologies have become a dime a dozen, and most are either insincere, or filled with qualifications and excuses, this one has some substance to it. Here’s the background:

Last week, the National Football League’s commissioner suspended Baltimore Ravens star running back Ray Rice for the first two games of the coming season.

The penalty was met with overwhelming outrage. Rice had beaten his then-fiancé (they have since gotten married). Players have suffered much tougher penalties (at least four game suspensions; sometimes a full season) for what are perceived as lesser offenses.

Of course, this topic became national fodder for talk programs of all kinds. One of those programs is ESPN’s First Take. On Friday, July 25th, Stephen A. Smith, a popular member of the show, made some (later) admittedly stupid and offensive comments. He left the impression that women should stop "provoking" these attacks they suffer.

You can imagine the explosion of reaction all over the media, both traditional and social, during the weekend. He was vilified, and for good reason, based on how he said what he said.

The very next Monday, July 28th, First Take opened cold with Smith on camera, offering an apology.

Now, so many people have apologized for so many things lately (certainly since we entered the new era of instant, global communications), my opinion is their apologies have little value.

However, Smith, first by responding relatively quickly, and taking full responsibility, has done a commendable job. Indeed, he’s one of the few who did not apologize only to those who may have been offended. He assumed everyone not only was, but had a right to be offended. His apology sounds and looks sincere. 

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The NBA and Damage Control

Banned for Life

By Eric M. Seidel, CEO

When NBA Commissioner Adam Silver banned LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling for life, he had little choice to act swiftly and decisively. Too much was at stake. Reputation, image, morale and, perhaps most importantly, money. Sponsorships and other revenue-bearing relationships were on the line. A number of sponsors already had bailed, and others were hedging their bets by "pausing" their relationship with the team and the league.

Silver's declaration has been widely applauded and seems to have been a major step in getting the NBA's business back to normal. But his work has just begun. There will be more, especially since some questions still beg for answers. 

For instance, Sterling's bigoted business practices have been known for years. And that very question came up at Silver's pronouncement news conference:

Clearly, Silver was prepared for that question. He had to be, since it was obviously going to come up. And he handled it well, at least for now. But this won't go away. The league had a rotten apple, and apparently had turned a deaf ear and blind eye to the problem for years. Silver will have to come up with a better, more comprehensive and credible answer. Perhaps even admitting the NBA was remiss in failing to confront Sterling and his biases much earlier. 

Another question, however, just might have helped lead Silver to a response he'll need to employ in the very near future: 

But, there's also the other side of the coin. This was a private conversation that was secretly recorded and distributed for public consumption:

And the fact that Sterling reportedly admitted to Silver it was indeed his voice and his words helps solidify the commissioner's position.

But both Silver and the owners have much more repair work to do.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Paula Deen: Get Thee to a Kitchen. Quickly!

First, a couple of preliminary thoughts about this Paula Deen thing:

  1.             Are you prepared to have your reputation and livelihood assaulted for something you said 30 years ago?
  2.      Paula needs to get back to her kitchen and away from all this chatter.

The Internet has changed just about everything. Lives can be turned upside down, thanks to this worldwide archive. Sometimes, its “victims” do it to themselves and get what they deserve (e.g. pictures on Facebook; videos on Youtube). But, even those who are held accountable for a failure somewhere in their distant past should learn from Paula Deen how not to react, or, in this case, overreact.

In short, after standing up the Today Show the first time, then offering three fairly weak takes at apology videos on, and then finally appearing on Today, Paula, indeed, has overreached.

All she needed was a written statement. That’s it. Just a statement saying what she said was definitely wrong, no doubt about it. It was three decades ago, and in an honest answer during a legal deposition (where honesty is a good thing). Then, let it fade away.

But Paula has fed the beast, the Internet, which devours as it travels at light speed. As a result, the proverbial toothpaste has left the tube, squeezed and squeezed by Paula herself. So, let’s examine her latest “performance” (and, hopefully, final act in this too contrived of a drama) on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.

Paula was all emotion. She led with a statement saying, in effect, all of God’s creatures are created equal and she’s always believed that.

Matt was cold and calculating, asking what's the real reason you're here, money or image?

Matt prods: But you used the word, albeit 30 years ago, so then, what are your true feelings?

He keeps digging, looking for controversy, inferring that since Paula's from the South, and considering the South's history regarding race relations...:

Paula Deen actually did okay on Today, considering Matt Lauer’s questions. He was looking for a news scoop and didn't get it. She was looking for absolution, and it remains to be seen if she'll get that.

But, she didn't need to put herself through all of this. Apologies have become a dime a dozen (Do Apologies Really Work?). They’re almost a daily occurrence and we've become pretty much immune to them.

Draft a statement. Release it. Stop feeding the media beast. If Paula Deen had done that, instead of continually breathing life into the story, I wonder if she would've lost as much as she has.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Do Apologies Really Work?

The answer to the headline above: No! Not anymore, if they ever had. Apologies are about as meaningless as “They took me out of context.”

Case in point: three sports talk hosts on a morning drive radio show in Atlanta do two minutes of a tasteless skit at the expense of a former NFL player suffering from ALS (a/k/a Lou Gehrig’s Disease), that horrible, incurable illness that slowly strips its victims of the ability to move, swallow and, ultimately, breathe.

All three were summarily fired. In just two mindless minutes, they might have dealt a death blow to their careers. And now they're all saying they're sorry. Sorry for what? The sick “bit” mocking former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason, or for their self-inflicted reputation damage?

And instead of just drifting into the shadows, giving this stupid antic time to drop out of the news, two of them compounded the “crime.”

One, Steve “Steak” Shapiro, gave the story extended life by appearing on CNN for a nearly 10 minute segment that included an excerpt of the on-air bit. An edited portion of the interview is below, minus a replay of what they did on their radio show. Shapiro, usually self-assured, was visibly shaking, sweating, shrinking into himself.

Another, Nick Cellini, apparently attempting to deflect this major embarrassment, was quoted saying their firing was “a relief, really. That station is a sinking ship.” Nice, Nick. Dump on the station. Does this mean the skit was pre-meditated? That you wanted to get fired to put you out of your apparent misery at work? Have you thought about a change in careers?

The given in today’s environment is that all this has gone viral and will live on and on. The Internet assures that these guys will never be able to outlive their thoughtless antic.

Of course, when you flub (perhaps too light a description) like this, so publicly on the air, you’re doing the shooting at your own foot. But, thanks to technology, you’re always on the record. It’s a fact, albeit a sad one.

So, if you find yourself having to say you're sorry, what you’re sorry for more than likely will make the deeper, longer-lasting impression than any apology.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Neither Snow, Nor Rain…REALLY?

Patrick Donahoe
US Postmaster General

By Eric M. Seidel, CEO
The Media Trainers®, LLC

It’s a quotation many of us first heard as children and related it to the Pony Express: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

According to Wikipedia: “This phrase was a translation by Prof. George H. Palmer, Harvard University, from an ancient Greek work of Herodotus describing the Persian system of mounted postal carriers c. 500 B.C.E.”

But, that’s a different story for another day.

Unfortunately, Herodotus did not take into consideration the Internet, email, social networks and, of course, budget deficits. The U.S. Postal Service has been hemorrhaging at staggering rates for years now. So, Saturday mail delivery (excluding packages) will be going the way of the Pony Express as of this coming August.

And Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe is the guy who has to take the heat on this one. He’s not the most compelling (read: exciting) speaker you’ll ever see and/or hear, but, in this case, that serves him well. He also appears to be fairly unflappable.

In a Fox Business Network interview, Donahoe held his own quite well when confronted by an aggressive Denis Kneale. However, for the sake of brevity and technique, I’d like to select two specific Q&As in the broadcast.

First, an obvious question, why not privatize the service completely? Sell it to corporate America. Donahoe’s response, in essence, some people would be left out, especially in rural areas where delivery is not necessarily cost-effective. That was a good message for many viewers.

Another question: there’s so much junk mail, why not raise the rates for the senders? Unfortunately, Donahoe failed to answer this one, although he made a terrific case for the effectiveness of “junk mail” and the ROI it provides the businesses that mail it out…which would lead you to believe, raising the postage rate for junk mail could be one helpful solution. But, because he failed to respond to the specific question, a really good answer may have been lost on his audience.

Spin or evasion are counter-productive. There are ways to be responsive to questions you don’t like, and still stay on message.

Patrick Donahue did an okay job with most of the questions, but on this one, he swung and missed.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Sometimes It’s Best to Just Say No Thank You!

Guy Fieri
Restaurant Owner
Chef and Host, Food Network

Generally, I believe in dealing with the media. Especially in this day and age when everyone is potentially a publisher on the Internet.

But there are exceptions, especially those times when you don’t need to respond since you’ll just be diving on your sword.

Case in point: Guy Fieri, star chef and show host on the Food Network opened his latest restaurant, this one at the densely populated intersections of New York’s Times Square, Guy’s American Kitchen and Bar.

Guy and his eatery were prosaically crucified by a New York Times food critic. The evaluation was scathing. 

Of course, Guy being Guy, this got a lot of attention. But, again, Guy being Guy, he felt he had to respond. So he accepted an invitation from NBC, and added life and coverage to the negative publicity.

Making things worse, Guy took a red eye flight from the west coast to appear on The Today Show. Perhaps sleep-deprived, showing no evidence of well thought out message points, he should've stayed home. So, his response was defensive, weak, poorly thought out, making both him and his restaurant look worse.

A sampling of Guy’s defensive response to the critic:
“I just thought it was ridiculous.”
“It really seemed like there was another agenda.”
“The tone, the sarcasm, the questions style…I think what we all know what’s going on here. He came in with a different agenda; came into a restaurant four times that’s been open two months. That’s tough times.”
“Do we do it perfect? No. Are we striving to do it perfect? Yes.”

When told based on this and other reviews, his new place “is not necessarily knocking socks off.” Fieri’s responded: “At this point in time, not really expecting to…I think those (reviews) will change. It’s two months now, let’s see where we are in six months.”

Really, we should expect a restaurant to be sub par when it first opens? Especially with all the competition around, and in Times Square yet?

Fieri had a choice to turn down the invitation from NBC. And he should’ve. Yes, many people had either seen or heard about the stinging Times article. But, the betting here is even more had not. And how many thousands visit Times Square who have no idea about the review, but do recognize Guy Fieri’s name, and would choose to eat there based on that fact alone?

Guy, this time, you added too much flame and overcooked something better left on the back burner!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

TMT’s 10 Rules of Interviewing©

By Eric M. Seidel, CEO 
The Media Trainers®, LLC 

Media training you receive should be comprehensive, customized and teach you strong techniques. Perhaps ironically, many reporters appreciate someone who is prepared. It helps them do their jobs easier and quicker. 

I base my training on the following rules. They’ve been well received and, gratefully, most of my clients have adopted these rules and the continued use of the exclusive templates they receive at the close of a training day. 

  Rule #1—Know what’s at stake 
What’s in it for you? 
In other words, make sure you have a reason for doing the interview. For instance, it’s your chance to establish an agenda on an issue. Or, it could offer you a competitive advantage. Perhaps you need to clear up misperceptions or erroneous information. It could be helpful to increasing your stock value. There are many possible reasons; just make sure you have one or more predetermined for yourself. It will help keep you on message. 

  Rule #2—You can define the terms 
Answer from your perspective. 
Spin or evasion are counter-productive to transmitting messages. Politicians are notorious for it and you’ve probably found yourself getting frustrated with spin and evasion when you see or hear it. You can answer questions responsively, even when you don’t like them. It’s a matter of listening carefully and then answering from your perspective instead of getting impaled on an opposing agenda. 

  Rule #3—You are the expert 
You own the information.
If a reporter had all he/she needed, they wouldn’t spend time talking to you. But, no matter how well briefed they are on your company or industry, you undoubtedly have a greater depth of expertise. Let it out, and let it comfort you, help you feel more confident and prepared. 

  Rule #4—An interview is not a conversation
It’s a message delivery environment. 
This is the rule that is usually the most difficult for my clients to adapt to. Interviews have all the attributes of conversations, but conversations often lead to debates, corrective responses, sometimes even to arguments. None of that is helpful to you. If you feel like you’re in a conversation, you might just end up saying something in a way that you regret. 

  Rule #5—Understand the interview environment 
Prevent unexpected distractions. 
Make sure you know exactly how the interview is going to be conducted so that you don’t get distracted by technology. Is it a phone interview? Or, on the other extreme, you relating just to a camera while the interview is being conducted from a studio somewhere in the distance? You need to know in advance, especially since it may require a dress rehearsal that imitates the upcoming interview environment. 

  Rule #6—Have a positive attitude 
Let body language validate your words. 
If your non-verbals are not validating your verbals, guess what. Non-verbals win. Overwhelmingly. Body language is a huge factor. Even on a phone interview, tone of voice, a sense of enthusiasm, an indication of dread or fear, a lack of sincerity, perhaps a monotone…whatever it is that’s being heard with your words will either help “sell” or sabotage your words. In-person, using natural animation, just as might in general conversation, is encouraged. Be yourself. 

  Rule #7—Answers are more important than Questions 
Deliver positive, stand-alone statements. 
Their job is to ask questions. Your job is to deliver answers (messages). If you’re in a conversation mode, you’re likely going to respond to negative questions negatively. That puts you in a weakened position. The most negative questions can, and should, be answered with a positive response that can stand on its own and hopefully be used as a quote or sound bite. 

  Rule #8—Think audiences, first 
Define targets, then plan messages. 
You’ve got to know who you’re talking to before you determine what you want to say and how you need to say it. The reporter usually is not a target audience; only your conduit to those audiences. So, depending on the topic, and the media outlet doing the interview, narrow down their audiences to the ones most important to you. Target audiences can be one or more people who have a common interest with you and can help you achieve your (business) goals. 

  Rule #9—Answer with a conclusion, or point 
Reporters listen for sound bites. 
This is a tough one for engineers. They usually want to tell you all the details first. But, it’s not limited to engineers. Frankly, most of us do the same thing. But reporters have a finite amount of space (for print, or online), or time (for broadcast) and they need your help in packaging a story. So when you answer a question, go straight to the main point. Then, as necessary, support it with detail that they can use to support the quote they select. Usually, they’ll paraphrase that detail in order to meet their space and/or time limitations. 

  Rule #10—Determine your Interview Objective 
Make a positive lasting impression. 
This is the ultimate bottom line; it’s the sum of all your messages. And, it, too must be pre-determined. It is the overriding impression that you need to leave with target audiences. After they’ve heard, seen or read the story that includes you, what’s the overall feeling you want them to have? Hopefully, it’s usually positive and persuasive.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Power of Words

“It’s not what you say, but how you say it!”

Perhaps you received that admonition from your mom or dad—or both—while you were growing up. And probably because they didn’t approve of something you said.

But it says so much more about how we communicate today. The deluge, the cacophony of voices and messages are overwhelming. We typically respond by ignoring most of it.

Until that one thing you hear or read jumps out…because of the way it's said or written.

Consider this video of a blind beggar on a street somewhere in England, perhaps London. One passerby stopped and rewrote his message. The result, donations increased substantially.

The message was the same, but stated in a much more powerful way.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

What Happened to Comparatives?

When did “healthier” become “more healthy?” Or, when did “smarter” become “more smart?” Or, when did “stronger” become “more strong?” The rules for these things we call comparatives keep getting broken:

1. One syllable words form the comparative by adding -er and -est:

brave, braver, bravest
small, smaller, smallest
dark, darker, darkest.

2. Two-syllable words that end in -y, -le, and -er form the comparative by adding -er and -est:
pretty, prettier, prettiest
happy, happier, happiest
noble, nobler, noblest
clever, cleverer, cleverest

3. Words of more than two syllables form the comparative with more and most:
beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful.
resonant, more resonant, most resonant

This may sound like a minor point to you. Don't be fooled. If someone thinks you made a mistake with your comparative, they just might not hear anything else you say. Result: message lost.

It's often the little things that make a big difference.

Here's a little song for you in this video clip to help you remember when to add "-er" or "more":

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Succeeding a Legend

It’s tempting to strike back when you’re being attacked through the media. We’re getting a belly full of examples from the GOP presidential debates.

It’s the unusual person who can constrain that reflex and take the high road in such a way that their response is even more powerful.

Bill O’Brien is the newly-named football coach at Penn State. You probably know about the sordid scandal that institution is experiencing regarding a former assistant coach and charges of pedophilia. It cost one of the most celebrated coaches of all time, Joe Paterno, his job. It was very tragic for an icon to be forcibly retired.

And it’s quite a challenge to be the person who follows him.

O’Brien, the successor, has no Penn State roots; no connection at all. And while he has significant experience as an assistant coach in the pros and with major college programs, he’s never been a head coach. Those are two primary reasons his selection was not greeted favorably by everyone. Some notable former players have complained very loudly and publicly.

“It would have been nice if we felt like we were part of the process,” said D.J. Dozier, a member of the 1986 national championship team. “This is a pretty important situation in transition for the university and the program. There are a lot of guys that feel a certain way. Today I have more questions than answers.”

Former linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short led an online petition in support of interim coach Tom Bradley who’s been with Penn State and at Paterno’s side for decades.

It would be easy to understand O’Brien if he responded in anger. But, instead, his reaction was not only positive, it was powerful, giving his critics little opportunity to continue their public denunciations.

When he was introduced at a press conference, O’Brien acknowledged the controversy, said he understood it and took responsibility to “get this football family moving in the right direction.”

“We respectfully request the opportunity to earn your trust through communication and field it through our abilities, ethics, beliefs, work ethic and commitment to Penn State. In time, we will find that we have more common interests and goals than not. We are here now with you. You should be proud of Penn State’s numerous accomplishments. You should be proud of Penn State’s football program. You should love this school. You are why we want to be here. We want you to know that you will always be welcome and a part of our program because we are Penn State!”

With those brief remarks, Bill O’Brien created an open, accessible and welcoming posture to even his most strident critics, leaving them little room to credibly continue their public complaints.

This is an excellent example of how to channel your emotions through the media to help drive persuasive and positive messaging.

(You can see and hear O’Brien’s statement, which runs about one and a half minutes, just click on the video below.)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Good Do Die Young

By Eric M. Seidel, CEO
The Media Trainers, LLC

This is a very personal post about a very special friend and journalist.

Jim Huber’s prose resonated like poetry. A newspaper sports reporter who graduated to radio and television, everywhere he went, everyone he met, the result always was positive. Look up the words “class” and “gentleman” and certainly the picture you see above should be included.

I met Jim 37 years ago. I was news director of an Atlanta radio station. He was PR Director for the Atlanta Flames. Our station general manager saw something special in Jim, especially his writing. So he joined us as our sports director and soon his daily morning commentaries were appointment listening. I always was struck by the number of female listeners who tuned in for Jim’s sports-related comments. His prose was that good!

And his sense of humor. It was special. One day many years ago, I believe it was the LA Dodgers who signed the aged Minnie Minosa to their post-season baseball roster. It was a public relations move that generated lots of buzz. Minnie, of course, was a Latino and Jim played a tape supposedly of Minosa speaking Spanish at a Dodger press conference. Actually, it was tape of Brazilian soccer superstar Pele. Later that day, a listener called me and said he wasn't absolutely certain, but he thought the tape was of someone speaking Portuguese, not Spanish. Yes, Jim did it purposely to see if anyone noticed.

Like a perfectly cut diamond, Jim had many facets. And among them was his unflappability. Although originally a print reporter, he adapted to his broadcast environment quickly and smoothly. He was a complete pro. He left radio for local TV, but his talent was much too big for one market. CNN knew that and hired him for their sports department. Anchoring and reporting were his staple duties, but his sports essays became his brand.

Recognizing his very special skill, Jim was given more opportunities to grow that brand. The ideas for his essays were his own and he was afforded the time to write and produce them. CNN knew it had someone and something special and the network took advantage of it.

While sports was Jim’s second love—after family—golf was his special passion. For years, he was the in-depth interviewer and essayist for TBS and its coverage of the PGA. He became a celebrity in his own right (although that probably made him uncomfortable) within the professional golf community. His inherent kindness always came out in his work. Jim had a golden touch; he was a master wordsmith, and when an idea struck, he often could quickly turn out a beautiful piece.

I had lunch with Jim a little over a year ago. It was a great reunion. We had not seen each other for years, despite living in the same metropolitan area. Too often, life gets in the way of what makes living so special. We talked about getting together with our wives one evening soon for dinner. We never did and I will forever regret it.

A few days before this past Christmas, Jim had a cough that kept getting worse. He finally went to an ER for medical assistance. The diagnosis was acute Leukemia. One day after New Year’s, he was gone. Taken from us so unexpectedly, without any warning. I still cannot accept the fact that he’s gone.

Jim was 67. That’s much too young. He had so much more to do, so much more to give.

Too often the good do seem to die young.

There are a number of examples of Jim’s essays online. Here are links to two of them. One on the late Wayman Tisdale chronicling his battle with cancer. The other on the retirement of celebrated NBA coach Phil Jackson.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Impressions, Lasting Impressions

The Media Trainers, LLC

Are you aware of your immediate reaction to someone before they even say a word? More importantly, are you aware of how others might first perceive you when you meet? Non-verbals can scream, without making a sound. And, in interviewing, they are critical to your credibility. Here are some examples to consider:

1-800 Flowers CEO Jim McCann has a lot to smile about. This holiday season has been good for his business. But even when things are not this good, McCann warms a room with his smile and his body language. Executives could learn a lot observing McCann in interviews. He's warm, friendly and jovial.

Basic Industry Services CEO Kenneth Huseman has a positive story to tell, but you wouldn't know it from his demeanor. He helps oil companies find employees. And there are plenty of jobs to be filled right now in the U.S., but Huseman is all business. He could loosen up a bit. Maybe Jim McCann could advise him on the value of a smile!

This is Dennis Davern. He captained the boat from which Natalie Wood "fell" and drowned 30 years ago. He contributed to a book recently published that claims, at the very least, negligence on the part of Wood's husband, Robert Wagner, contributed to her death. Did anyone tell Davern to shave and bathe before this interview? Apparently not! By the way, his performance was as poor as his appearance.

This guy, on the other hand, is being hammered with one of the toughest and nastiest questions I've heard. He's Nokia's CEO, Stephen Elop, and the gist of the question is that Nokia's stock isn't worth holding onto, not to mention purchasing. Yet, to his credit, Elop maintains a cool expression, waits for the question to end (and it was long), and then answers it calmly and positively.

Familiar with Scott Boras? He's a sports agent, primarily for major league baseball players. His client list includes a number of super stars. Teams hate dealing with Boras. He's very difficult. Indeed some teams have refused to deal with him at all. His image follows him into interviews. In this one, he made very clear non-verbally that he was bored and would rather be somewhere else. So why did he agree to do it?

And, finally, Harry Belafonte was making the rounds not long ago, via satellite, selling his autobiography. Belafonte was in NYC as the local Terre Haute, Indiana, TV anchor introduced him. Unfortunately, Harry had fallen asleep, apparently with no IFB in his ear. She called his name several times, but nothing. Not a flinch, not a muscle. His pose was frozen. No word on sales of his book in Terre Haute, but this "interview" undoubtedly generated lots of buzz.


Thursday, November 3, 2011

Blind Man Swinging at a Piñata

First, this disclaimer: I have no preference in the GOP presidential contest. I observe press conferences, interviews and debates through the prism of techniques.

With that said, Herman Cain’s response to sex harassment charges has been a graduate-level course in what NOT to do in a crisis.

Observing Cain and his campaign has been like watching a blind man swinging at a piñata. Every response has been an instant reaction without prior thought or planning, constantly missing the mark. As a result, Cain’s story has changed from one interview to the next. As more details emerge, his explanation adds a new wrinkle, provoking more questions and a picture of an organization in chaos.

Cain’s communications team—which may be a generous description—has been amateurish. Chief of Staff Mark Block took that a step further, appearing on Fox News and with a page of messages he visibly referred to during the live interview. In addition, Block charged the Rick Perry campaign for leaking the harassment story to Politico, a charge that very likely could be wrong, thus creating even deeper problems and concerns for the Cain campaign and its credibility. (Click on the video below.)

Herman Cain and his people were alerted this story was coming out about 10 days in advance. Their apparent inaction in doing due diligence and preparing a factual, credible, cogent and comprehensive response inevitably raises questions about the candidate and his ability to organize and lead. They had an opportunity to get ahead of this story, but their inaction has them trailing, keeping them off message.

Today’s reality of instant planet-wide communication makes it a priority to have a strong, credible communications infrastructure. And not just for political candidates; it’s imperative for all businesses and organizations.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The ROI of Interviews

The Media Trainers®, LLC

Consider this: a reporter interviews you because they want information, or a quote (or sound bite). So, you are fullfilling something they need to do a story. What about what you need, or would like to get in return? Shouldn’t this be a two-sided arrangement?

In either case, neither of you may come away with exactly what you wanted, or needed, to get out of it. But that doesn’t negate the fact that you have every right to pre-determine what you want to get out of an interview BEFORE you submit.

Hence what I call your ROI: Return On the Interview. This is what you want to achieve as result of solid, persuasive messaging. The ROI could be one (or more) of any number of things including, but not limited to:

  • Competitive advantage
  • Correcting erroneous impressions
  • Enhancing or repair company image
  • Positively affecting stock value
  • Joining an industry messaging campaign
  • Potential for immediate financial gains
  • Responding to a crisis
  • Maintaining a top-of-mind position with clients/customers
  • Cultivating media relationships to support your branding efforts

There are no guarantees you’ll achieve your Return On the Interview. But you can be fairly sure no ROI will be derived if none is planned for ahead of time.

Predetermine your ROI and good message development should follow.