During a media training session, we stressed the importance that employees working out and about knew the organization had assigned specific people to talk to the media. I heard from the company this had been an issue in the past.
Then my mind wandered into a shaded, gray area it had not visited before during media training. It struck me that all participants during this particular training were men. The organization was male-dominated. And I recall from my days of reporting how supposedly seasoned spokesmen fell under the spell of attractive, nicely dressed female reporters.
The female reporters were not necessarily flirtatious. They were simply doing their jobs. They were young, attractive, already attached and unlikely to hold any desire for middle-aged men often lacking personality. But the men simply could not help themselves. Call it caveman behavior. They just enjoyed being in the company of the opposite sex and the fact that the women were hot fueled their fire.
It is only human nature that these one-sided relationships might mean someone releases additional information or at least points reporters in the right direction.
This goes both ways. Women comment about handsome reporters dressed in perfectly fitting suits. When I prepared to interview someone nervous about appearing on camera, I sometimes went out of my way to compliment their hair or tell them they were pretty. And maybe, just maybe, when I interviewed older women, I may have complimented her thinking she might appreciate the gesture from a younger man. Consider some examples:
- Before interviewing a woman in her home, she asked me to help her strap on her gold high heel shoe around her foot.
- A woman said she would have worn different underwear if she knew I would be attaching a microphone to her pants.
- When I told a woman I needed to put a microphone on her, she asked if I needed to attach it to her boob.
- A female reporter told me she batted her eyes to make journalistic headway with a governor.
- A co-worker told me one of our reporter colleagues slept with a woman he had interviewed earlier in the day.
- A female reporter told me a celebrity she interviewed later sent someone to ask her if she would join him in his hotel room.
- Some reporters and anchors post social media profile pictures more appropriate for lingerie commercials.
For the most part, sexual tension between reporters and spokespeople is harmless. It is a reflection of society and the dynamic between men and women. But if we are keeping it real, this unspoken heat between the sexes could lead to some information leak. And during this media training session, I went down that road. I warned the men, when dealing with sensitive information not ready for the public’s ears, don’t transform into bubbling fools because common sense crept south where common sense has no sense at all.
People may consider all this silly. But we have witnessed supposedly great men in powerful positions risk it all for sex. Take it for what it’s worth. Know your weaknesses. Don’t blame the opposite sex. Keep your comments in your mouth. How you handle your pants is your business.
Why not show a little leg on your company intranet with the HowStuffWorks approach? Wikipedia aptly describes the site as an “edutainment website” that “uses various media in its effort to explain complex concepts, terminology and mechanisms, including photographs, diagrams, videos and animations, and articles.” You can do this on a shoestring budget with such tactics as infographics that illustrate workflows and processes, podcast interviews or top 10 lists of weird factoids. This approach can help break down silos, humanize your company’s divisions and pique interest in how your company operates. The content needs to be unique and shareable through your internal social media platform. People like to see behind the curtain.
Outside light flooded through two, big bay doors. The light created unwanted reflections. We asked the company to move equipment and close both bay doors, eliminating the reflections. For video production, try to prevent your location’s light from limiting you. Take extra time to alter your environment for your needs.
“What are words for? When no one listens anymore.” The early 1980s song “Words” from Missing Persons aptly sums up today’s growing epidemic: the lost art of listening. Listening is a powerful communication skill and it’s on the decline. From the dinner table to the conference room table, people are tuning out loved ones and coworkers. In our case, we’re talking about listening in the workplace.
Here are some of the prime workplace culprits:
- The interrupter. This person likes to dominate conversations. They often display a lack of patience for others to finish sentences.
- The hyper facilitator. This person feels pressure to keep meetings flowing. Armed with an agenda, they move quickly from topic to topic. They often try to take conversations “offline” as opposed to letting organic conversations flow. Organic conversations often lead to richer outcomes.
- The screen zombie. This person is physically present but that’s about it. Their eyes never leave their smart phone or laptop screens. They might chime in from time to time, but their body language says they have more important things to do.
Employees want to be heard. They want to contribute and they want to be acknowledged. They want to feel like someone is listening to their questions or concerns and that they will do something about it. So what can leaders and their companies do to fine tune their listening skills? Here are a handful of ideas:
- Minimize opportunities for interruptions. Ask people to put smart phones or laptops away (unless they are using them to take notes).
- Hold meetings at another location if appropriate – outside or over coffee or lunch.
- Carve out listening or Q&A sessions.
- Cut down on email to be more present like one PR firm did. (See its blog about it.)
- Arm managers with frequent buzz worthy questions to ask at their staff meetings. Here is a link to some great questions to ask your team.
- Recap conversations before you end the meeting. For example: “What I heard is …” followed up by, “Did I miss anything? Anything else you want to add?”
- Email a recap of conversations to those in the meeting along with next steps. This particularly helps when people have had more time to think about the topic and might have more to add at a later time. It also shows you’re listening and that you plan to take action.
Charles Barkley is part of one of the most entertaining on-air TV crews covering the NBA. He’s fun to watch and we appreciate his candid opinions. He’s also not afraid to talk about issues related to race. He raised the issue of race during his recent comments about running back Adrian Peterson, but he committed a foul. When speaking about African Americans in the South and disciplining children, he stated, “Every Black parent in the South is going to be in jail under those circumstances.”
Barkley offers his personal experience, but he doesn’t speak for every African American in the South. When sharing strong opinions with the media, avoid generalizations that place everyone under the same roof.
Controversies about Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, Richi Incognito and Aaron Hernandez reinforce a stereotype of professional athletes as a gang of outlaws hiding behind masks of money and fame. The frequency ESPN alerts our smartphones with reports of athlete misconduct is astonishing. Good reporters investigate whether these cases are isolated incidents or a reflection of a widespread problem. Bad reporters draw such conclusions without sufficient evidence. For example, during last season’s so-called bullying scandal involving Incognito, some reporters and TV hosts appeared desperate to prematurely declare that the incident revealed a widespread cultural problem within the Miami Dolphins.
The New York Times posted a story, “What the Numbers Show About N.F.L. Player Arrests.” The article points out USA Today keeps a database dating back to 2000 of arrests, charges, and citations of NFL players “for anything more serious than a traffic citation.” The writer addressed three conclusions that struck us:
- “The numbers show a league in which drunk-driving arrests are a continuing problem and domestic violence charges are surprisingly common.”
- “2014 is on track to have the fewest reported arrests since at least 2000.”
- “Thus over the nearly 15 years that the USA Today data goes back, the 713 arrests mean that 2.53 percent of players have had a serious run-in with the law in an average year. That may sound bad, but the arrest rate is lower than the national average for men in that age range.”
The NFL’s public relations strategy must not be one-dimensional. On one hand, the league must genuinely and in transparent fashion work to improve its problems and consider significant changes. On The Flip Side, the NFL should proactively address whether these incidents truly reflect the whole. The league should share personal stories of athletes improving society and their communities. Reiterate the good while addressing the bad. This approach is not whitewashing. This method helps place complex stories in proper context.
When the game is over, some reporters may still conclude athletes are little more than bodies of aggression and testosterone that spill into society. But at least provide that same society additional information to take into consideration.
Here’s a segment of Senator John McCain and former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney debating Obama’s foreign policy announcement. When conducting media training, we purposely interrupt people we interview to prevent them from finishing answers, gauge their responses and generally throw them off track. Media training participants often allow us to initially interrupt them and dictate the tone of the interviews. In this segment, we counted that Carney and McCain interrupted each other nine times. (If you’re keeping score, McCain eked out the interruption victory by a 5-4 margin.) Don’t let reporters or critics at an intense meeting interrupt you. Politely and assertively tell people you are happy to answer their questions or allow them to respond, but you want an opportunity to finish your thought. Networks may believe a parade of fierce interruptions makes for good TV. But by allowing someone to consistently interrupt and hand you a verbal beat down, audiences may assume you’re the moment’s loser even if facts proclaim you the winner.
If cybercriminals strike your company, prepare for the following questions from the media:
- How significant is the data breach?
- How many customers has the data breach impacted?
- How many company locations has the data breach impacted?
- What security had you put in place to prevent data breaches?
- How will the data breach impact sales?
- Have you identified the cybercriminals?
- When did the data breach occur?
- When did you first become aware of a potential breach?
- How did the data breach occur?
- What steps is the company’s security team taking?
- What outside security firms have you hired?
- How will your company handle any customers who see fraudulent charges?
- Will your company offer customers free identify protection?
- What steps should customers take to determine if the data breach impacted them?
- Will a company spokesperson appear on camera for an interview?
Two people watch themselves on the camera’s LCD screen while Keith looks through the viewfinder.