- Share stories. Hillary Clinton shared the story of a Las Vegas girl to relay the candidate’s position on immigration. Share personal stories to humanize and effectively illustrate your key messages especially when they are complex.
- Don’t pivot. When asked about information from leaked emails, Clinton awkwardly pivoted the focus of her answer to criticism about Russia. It’s OK to answer a question and bridge to a different key message, but doing so in a clunky fashion may appear that you’re trying too hard to change the subject. When the topic was about Donald Trump and women, he awkwardly pivoted to discussing the controversy surrounding Clinton’s emails as secretary of state. And when the moderator asked Clinton about ethical questions regarding the Clinton Foundation, she instead talked about the foundation’s accomplishments.
- Prepare sizzling soundbites. Clinton characterized Trump as a potential puppet of Russia’s leader. Don’t be nasty, but prepare ahead of time quotes or memorable soundbites to package your message. On two occasions, Clinton said Trump was hosting “Celebrity Apprentice” at the same time she was fighting the country’s enemies.
- Watch body language. We do not recommend that business leaders adopt Trump’s body language. Body language is often half the battle to effectively sharing your message
- Don’t attack the media. Trump referred to the media as corrupt. Criticizing the media in general may please your supporters, but it won’t effectively broaden your reach or conceal you from criticism.
- Don’t proactively bring attention to your controversies. Trump called Clinton “such a nasty woman” while he faces harsh criticism about his treatment of women. Some people might consider it a sizzling soundbite, but it’s not if it ultimately reinforces a negative image.
- Finish strong. The moderator gave both candidates the chance to end the debate by addressing the key messages of their choice. When reporters end interviews by asking if you want to add anything, take the opportunity to hit a home run.
- Don’t rant. Watch the above video about former head football coach Jim Mora. The video is entitled, “ESPN First Take – Jim Mora Rant: “Saints’ Season Is Not Over.” It is not positive when people characterize your response to an answer as a “rant.” Imagine the reactions from clients, employees and the media if a business executive answered a question in such fashion.
- Don’t let temperament overshadow. Your tone and temperament, when viewed poorly, can overshadow your efforts to educate the public with your key messages. Temperament was a topic in this election year’s first presidential debate.
- Don’t be awkward. When you answer a question with a rush of adrenaline, you risk creating an awkward and uncomfortable environment for those watching and surrounding you.
- Don’t entertain too much. You’re not playing the role of a reality TV star. Viewers should consider you interesting. However, that’s different from viewers considering you entertaining due to high-octane emotions.
- Don’t be the conversation. When your tone turns into the topic, you instead of your key messages become the conversation.
- Don’t risk reputation. When your temperament is in question, people will hold this against you. Ask former presidential candidate Howard Dean.
- Don’t confuse passion with emotions. Showing spirit and passion is different from a rant or emotions the public might describe as out of control.
- Tell the truth. Fact checkers will share with us which statements from the presidential candidates were exaggerations, misleading and lies. While political candidates often survive their tall tales, business leaders and their companies are generally more vulnerable when the media point out their untruthful statements.
- Speak with passion. Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump spoke with passion. A business leader’s key messages might perfectly strike target audiences, but sharing words robotically or without enthusiasm, even under uncomfortable circumstances, are quick ways to lose people’s interest.
- Don’t deviate too much from talking points: When answering questions, presidential candidates often end up talking about whatever issues they prefer. This is why politicians often face a reputation of dodging questions. Dodging questions generally reflects poorly on business leaders in the eyes of clients and employees.
- Get ready. The media have analyzed different approaches Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump apparently took to prepare for their first presidential debate. Whichever approach you prefer, be prepared to discuss the topic at hand or be prepared how to handle questions when you don’t know the answers. News media interviews offer business leaders an opportunity to position themselves as industry experts. Take advantage of such occasions.
- Watch the adrenaline. Both presidential candidates showed spirit. Don’t mistake crazy adrenaline for spirit. People won’t listen if your tone turns them off first.
- Don’t overload us with information. Almost all presidential candidates at times lose their audiences with details most of us don’t understand. The media provide business leaders far less time to clearly explain themselves. Unless your audience is industry savvy, explain yourself and connect the dots assuming people don’t know much about what you do.
- Prepare great sound bites and quotes. Our guess is most media will repeatedly show us the same sound bites from the debates. Presidential candidates don’t generally provide such words by chance. They look for opportunities to deliver their clever sentences. Business leaders don’t need to play it deviously. However, considering sound bites that might sum up complex topics can be strategically important.
- Beware of body language. We don’t recommend adopting Trump’s body language. It may work for him and every rule has its exemptions. Business leaders may consider body language superficial, but we’ve watched too many executives lose the war of words by not what they say … but how they say it and how they look.
- Realize traditional media are only one part of the story. If you’re handling a crisis, trying to persuade public opinion or simply attempting to extend your reach, not strategically considering social media is the equivalent of a head football coach claiming special teams won’t play a role in determining victory or defeat.
- Don’t blame the media. Your fans and supporters may love blaming the media, but your goal is building business, bringing in more clients or increasing support for important causes. Blaming the messenger for your troubles won’t resonate with outsiders giving you and your team initial consideration.
- Media training is not about attempting to memorize a script of lines you may or may not believe in.
- It’s not about stifling your opinions.
- It’s not about cleverly sidestepping questions, which most people realize you’re doing anyway.
- It’s not about hammering your critics with hyperbole and overused cliches.
- It’s not about analyzing your body language to the extent you move robotically.
- It’s not about asking reporters to review their questions beforehand.
- It’s not about blaming the media.
- Media training is not about stating you don’t know information you clearly should.
- It’s not about pretending to understand or rationalize the reasoning of someone who made a decision you clearly believe is ridiculous.
- Media training is not for people afraid to tell the truth at every turn because they want to perpetuate an illusion that everything is always awesome.
A media outlet’s writer contacted us, thanking us for helping with one of our clients’ stories. She said the number of companies attempting to include their products in the story got competitive and congratulated us for making the cut.
We thanked her for including our client in the story. However, we asked her if she wanted an opportunity to correct information in the story about our client before we posted the story on social media. The mistakes included:
- incorrectly referring to a product by the company name itself
- a capitalization problem with the product’s name
When I worked as a television reporter, I learned reporters, companies and PR pros can misunderstand each other despite their best efforts. Companies and PR pros often speak an industry lingo. Reporters without regular beats are attempting to understand an industry they aren’t particularly familiar with. Because of this, I, after an interview, often double checked a story’s most important facts with a company or its representative. Most reporters don’t take this step just prior to sharing their stories with producers and editors. Some reporters may misinterpret later checking the facts with sources as censorship. However, I simply checked facts. I didn’t allow sources an opportunity to sugar coat their words and take out important information.
We recommend companies, after providing media interviews, send a follow-up email to reporters which politely reviews the key points discussed. This is our attempt to help improve reporter accuracy, which too often is absent from journalism. It is not uncommon for us to ask reporters to correct their mistakes after their outlets publish stories. We aren’t referring to subjective corrections that would place our clients in a more positive light. We are referring to clearly incorrect information such as wrong job titles or mistakes about someone’s education.
People may assume reporters are loathe to acknowledge mistakes and take steps to then correct them. However, we believe every reporter we contacted about mistakes moved forward and corrected them. In our latest example, we needed to email the writer twice before hearing back about our request for corrections. And correcting the mistakes included about 12 emails back and forth. Ultimately, most reporters don’t want errors to sully their reputations, especially if those mistakes might indicate a lack of attention to detail. And we infer clients appreciate a PR pro’s efforts to a greater extent when the final piece isn’t tattered with mistakes. Audiences may not recognize these types of errors. But for clients, every word often counts. We can’t always expect objectivity. However, we should expect accuracy.
I inferred sales, and in turn the newsroom, obsessed over stories that might pique the interest of younger viewers, the ones advertisers reach for like a crowd fighting to snatch the last blockbuster sale item on the morning of Black Friday. However, managers, despite their desires for minion disciples, never persuaded me to buy into their positions about seniors. It seemed to me, especially during the Great Recession, that Baby Boomers carried more disposable wealth for the upgraded items younger generations never considered purchasing. During a station meeting, I once asked the general manager if we needed to shift our traditional thinking about demographics. His answer seemed to mostly reflect surprise that one of the minions actually tried to ask a substantive question.
Watching a brief moment of Bernie Sanders endorsing Hillary Clinton reminded me again of those managers and producers mockingly responding to my senior citizen story pitches. How could an old man fascinate whippersnappers? How could grandpa persuade millennials to stray away from their smartphones and pay attention to politics? You don’t need to endorse Sanders’ views to acknowledge he connected with the very demographic which supposedly wouldn’t want to watch a story about those of elder generations.
When I need advice about life, I turn to my parents. When I need advice about business, I turn to our mentor, a man in his 70s. When a realtor and grandfather wearing a hearing aid handed us his business card, I assumed his experience in years would translate into an excellent knowledge of his trade. I did not assume he stood disconnected from a contemporary world.
Those who patronize our elders with sweet, dismissive smiles are missing opportunities to peer into the future and acquire understandings we normally need decades to grasp. There’s no need to always abide by an older generation’s rules and recommendations. However, we should listen and we will more often than not learn something to at least consider.
The fool assumes he can learn nothing from those who made their living before gadgets, software and today’s technology dominated our landscape. However, every generation had gadgets and innovations in its own time. The script changes with each generation but the story of business and people generally stays the same.
Journalists, like many people, try too hard to simplify what others want and believe. If we decide to dismiss anything, then let’s dismiss conventional wisdom.
Many times when life’s building frustrations pushed me closer to whichever metaphorical edge that might have applied at the time, my Dad’s slower delivery of wisdom successfully provided the type of safety valve I needed when free falling. And during these very personal motivational speeches, he frequently shared a personal failure to reinforce how he can relate and the lessons he learned.
During these moments, the stories he shared from his life strike me like an unforeseen left jab I didn’t see coming and didn’t know existed. How had I not heard before of such a watershed moment in his life?
Generally, the world of stereotypes tell us men are not the strongest communicators with each other. However, I propose a lack of personal sharing also is symbolic of a generational gap.
While my generation and the one that followed might consider spilling their guts on social media more routine than risk, those who grew up before me tend to not proactively crack open their books until a moment desperately cries for crucial perspective.
Loren never successfully persuaded her grandmother to share mysteries about Loren’s grandfather. And my adventures into Ancestry.com only recently unlocked information that prior generations never cooperated to pass along.
When my Dad shares stories of personal struggle I never knew existed, I’m grateful. His stories build a bridge of understanding and strength that convince me to start stepping backward from the edge. This is when you realize your heroes are very human and faced the same darkness that only experience can help clearly explain. However, I also begin to wonder what other stories might exist and whether they will ever reveal themselves in the future. Must we wait to turn the page on another chapter before hearing the latest twist?
If my Dad proactively shared the private successes and failures that shaped him, I wonder what I might learn. TMI, too much information, is a reality. However, better and more open communication between generations, and perhaps specifically among men and fathers and sons, might help us find our path sooner and better navigate those ugly turns we didn’t see approaching.
Some brands reach a point when their media relations expectations are more demanding. The brands value national news coverage and their marketing forecasts no longer place a priority on their region’s local media. The organizations decline to make themselves as readily available to local media that they now characterize as small potatoes. However, here are our top 10 reasons brands better not blow off interview requests from local media:
- Today’s local TV news producers are often your best contacts on the national level after they jump a couple of new jobs a few years down the road.
- Ignoring the local news is like presidential candidates ignoring their core constituencies, the people who brought you to power and will support you when times are tougher.
- You would rather stumble on the local news and improve before appearing before the entire country.
- Local news appearances allow you to build a library of media experience, which national news producers might check out before sitting you before a camera.
- If you can survive some of the wacky technical problems the local news presents, you can handle just about any on-air issue.
- You never know what big shots are visiting town, seeing you on the local news and considering how your services might help.
- The national news is often nothing more than identifying good local stories and retelling them with higher production value.
- The local news still offers one of the quickest ways to reach thousands, if not tens of thousands of people.
- It’s not uncommon for people who can’t get on the news to pay for one of those on-air segments that look like the news. So don’t pass up an invitation to take part in the real thing and earn some instant credibility.
- The reason parodies of local news, such as the one in “Horrible Bosses 2,” are so funny is because they are so spot on. So seize the day and continue to enjoy a behind-the-scenes experience even if you consider it sensational and superficial.