Posts Tagged ‘media training’

Media Training: Did UPS Need Better Delivery?

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

media training

By Keith Yaskin

During a media training session, we warned participants about providing answers that appeared to be guesses. Their facial expressions indicated they were contemplating the answers on the spot. In some instances, colleagues provided different answers to the same questions.

A New York Times article about United Parcel Service reminded me about that media training session. The story discussed how a passport shipped by UPS went missing for about two years. What happened?  The writer described a company spokesperson’s statements as theories. When the writer questioned the first theory, he said the spokesperson offered another possibility. Perhaps the spokesperson was attempting to be helpful and transparent, but, according to how the writer related the story, we inferred the spokesperson set herself up for cynicism. After the spokesperson offered her first theory, the writer pointed out UPS’s substantial tracking technology as if  to question how in the world the company lost a passport.

I talked on the phone with Susan Rosenberg, UPS Public Relations Director. She is who The Times quoted in the story. Susan told me she had worked with this journalist before and frequently speaks with consumer advocate reporters. She said it’s not uncommon for some of those reporters to initially approach their stories from negative points of view. She told me this writer’s story was cynical but she expected that from the beginning. She said she tried to be as helpful as possible for the reporter and explained the company went through exhaustive efforts to learn what happened with the passport. She explained the writer requested a substantial amount of data that the company did not provide. And she pointed out the story brought up the positive of UPS’s sophisticated technology

I was most curious if Susan regretted offering the writer educated guesses in contrast with saying something to the effect of, “Despite our exhaustive search, I’m afraid we are not sure why the passport went missing. We are still looking into it.” Susan told me she wasn’t interested in having a 20/20 hindsight type of conversation.

I have mixed feelings about Susan’s approach. On one hand, I applaud her willingness to apparently take extra steps to answer the reporter’s questions. On The Flip Side, I inferred the writer used Susan’s educated guesses about what happened to the passport as a launching pad to cynically question whether he received reasonable explanations. In general, we believe saying, “I don’t know” is a better approach than speculating. Don’t be afraid to tell the media you don’t have certain information and that you need to do further checking to get the details. You will be happy to get back to them later.

If you offer speculation, be prepared for a reporter to ask a follow-up question that questions your logic. You might be placing yourself in that situation and opening yourself up to a line of additional questioning that might not even be relevant. Don’t increase a reporter’s opportunity to lead you into a trap and revel in gotcha moments. In general, educated speculation leads to too many potholes.

That’s what media training can do for you.

Speaking On Preparing For Media During Breaking News

Thursday, February 20th, 2014

Media Training

Media Training: Oklahoma State University Earns A

Sunday, February 9th, 2014

Media Training

Several people publicly discussing how an Oklahoma State University basketball player shoved a fan during a game skillfully handled the media.

The team’s coach showed the importance of explaining how one incident does not reflect the whole person. He also explained how the situation is an opportunity to improve. The school’s Vice President for Athletic Programs and Director of Intercollegiate Athletics was particularly adroit at discussing how college is a learning environment and people make mistakes they hopefully will learn from. The player, suspended three games for the shove, offered what struck us as a sincere apology. Even the fan the player shoved apologized for his part in the incident.

OSU’s news conference also raised a peripheral issue people face when addressing the media:  convoluted questions. The coach didn’t seem to fully understand at least one question. Reporters sometimes word questions poorly, make those questions convoluted or ask some that seem inconsequential or silly. Answering tough questions is one thing. Trying to genuinely answer questions that aren’t clear can throw just about anyone off-balance.

Media Training: How Shooter Should’ve Handled Media

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014

Media Training

AZCentral’s Laurie Roberts wrote an opinion piece raising questions about the campaign and travel expenses of Arizona State Senator Don Shooter. Roberts wrote Shooter did not return several phone calls to discuss the questions.

In a video that accompanies Roberts’ story, a 12News reporter tells us he tried to talk to Shooter about the opinion piece. The 12News reporter says someone told him Shooter would be in a meeting. But the reporter says a few minutes later, he saw Shooter walk to his car. The reporter turned on his camera but says Shooter didn’t respond and drove away.

Any businessperson or politician facing scrutiny who hasn’t addressed the media’s questions shouldn’t be surprised if a reporter approaches him or her outside an office or in a parking lot. Your strategy for handling those situations should stretch beyond not responding or driving away. (We are assuming the reporters have accurately portrayed their interactions with Shooter.)

  • Answer the media’s questions. Explaining your side of the story on the phone or in person is much less awkward than reporters tracking you down at unexpected times or locations. Worse, the next time you face the media for a positive story, reporters may take advantage of that opportunity to address tough questions while the audience listens.
  • Before the interview, decide what one to three key messages you plan to focus on when addressing the questions. Keep circling back to your core points. Don’t delve into unnecessary details if possible. Use phrases such as, “The key issue is,” “It’s important to note that,” “Let me reiterate that.”
  • If necessary, explain you are working to improve and consider changes.
  • If you truly can’t comment, explain why. Maybe you need more time to get information. Maybe you don’t want to give out wrong information. Whatever phrases you provide, avoid no comment.

Be transparent. And that doesn’t mean looking at reporters through the windows of your vehicle.

Media Training: Christie Shouldn’t Have Said This

Monday, January 13th, 2014

Chris Christie, media training

We awarded New Jersey Governor Chris Christie an A- for his news conference about those controversial lane closures. But his few mistakes included a key one: He said he is not a bully.

Shortly after he uttered those words, a reporter at a major newspaper Tweeted them. CNN referenced the bully sound bite in its post news conference analysis. The image above shows Time’s take.

Don’t repeat negative questions back to reporters. Reporters often use those very sound bites. Find phrases to turn the question into a positive response.

Media Training: You’re Probably No Matthew Perry

Thursday, December 19th, 2013
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I’m torn about the actor Matthew Perry’s appearance on BBC Newsnight, where he engages in what I imagine is a very personal debate about drug addition and drug courts. Perry argues the concept of addiction is real while his nemesis, journalist and anti-drug campaigner Peter Hitchens, insists people actually have more willpower to make proper choices.

Perry’s approach makes what might be a dry but serious conversation quite entertaining and he accomplishes this without yelling or waving hands erratically. His rumor and sarcasm are reminiscent of Chandler, the character he made famous. While arguing addiction is real, Perry calls his opponent’s argument “ludicrous” and sarcastically calls him a genius. Perry also calls him “Santa” and compares the journalist’s point of view to believing in Peter Pan. Perry views this opponent as Chandler might view Joey’s insights on Friends. Hitchens mocks Perry for being “clever” and complains the actor cannot argue seriously.

It is certainly not farfetched that business leaders might find themselves on a news show, local or national, debating issues related to their industry. So it is worth watching how the characters on this BBC program interact. The conversation is testy at times, but Matthew Perry’s humor and personality make him likeable and personable while the journalist seems somewhat dry and stodgy. Why does that matter? Because half the time, the audience hasn’t asked a staff to research a topic and their opinions are often shaped by whichever objective or subjective news outlet informs them of such things. The guy we like wins the debate, for good or bad.

I’m torn because Perry is an actor and I’m skeptical most business leaders could cleverly insult either an opponent or tough reporter without looking like the jerk. Perry can get away with calling the journalist “Santa” because it’s just funny coming from Chandler. But the same zinger from a stiff CEO in a suit without the cool actor facial hair might lead to a bunch of puzzled faces.

Reality shows often show us disclaimers about not trying something at home without consulting a professional. Matthew Perry is a professional. If you show up on the local channel or cable news, be careful before ridiculing the other guest as Santa or a Peter Pan believer. An approach that might make Chandler likeable might make you engage in some crisis communications once the interview is done.

Media Training: Tips When Employees Screw Up

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013

Employee Communications: What About The New Hire Experience?



  1. Make someone available to talk with the media. Don’t hide behind “no comment” or lame, emailed statements.
  2. Apologize and share your disappointment in strong, genuine terms. Apologies won’t satisfy everyone, but they often stop problems before they snowball into something out-of-control.
  3. Explain how this happened. Otherwise, the rumor mill starts churning and speculation questions your whole business operation.
  4. Explain, if possible, the repurcussions for the employee. Saying something about the actions you took is better than nothing.
  5. If you took quick steps to prevent the problem from getting even worse, share that information.
  6. Explain what steps you’re taking to prevent this from happening again.
  7. Social media is where a crisis picks up steam. Use social media to share all this information. Be genuine. Don’t post statements that sound robotic and like B.S.
  8. Use your website’s newsroom to explain the situation. Your newsroom shouldn’t only be a “rah-rah” space. Stand up to the plate. Everyone has problems. Acknowledging them and handling them well ultimately determine public relations success.
  9. Explain all this to your own employees. That might squash the biggest rumor mill of all.

Media Training: 9 Reasons Darth Vader Gets It

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013


Some CEOs, while excelling at making money, are known for their social awkwardness. They should not be the ones from the company interacting with the media. But Darth Vader gets it.

Vader had the vision to shoot a selfie and authorize its posting on Instagram. From a practical standpoint, this is a significant accomplishment for the Empire’s chief executive considering how his own son effectively ended his controversial career. But from a media training standpoint, he perfectly delivered his key message about the upcoming Star Wars movie.

  1. Vader used his location to enhance his media appearance. Notice his background. Reporters want to see the sights of your industry.
  2. Vader wore solid colors, which typically show up better on camera.
  3. He avoided wearing any large jewelry that might distract audiences.
  4. His selfie includes, “Another day at the office.” He avoided using industry lingo.
  5. His message, “Another day at the office” kept him focused on his headline without deviating into unnecessary details.
  6. Vader didn’t fear using his hands on-camera. In fact, he used a prop and got visual!
  7. Despite the stormtrooper in the background, he cleared his area from potential distractions such as water bottles, coffee cups, cell phones and papers. Move items that might distract from your words and messages.
  8. Despite his job, his body language does not relay negativity.
  9. By posting a selfie to Instagram, he understands how social media is changing the way we receive and react to news.

Public Relations: 10 Ways To Prepare For A Protest

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Take It From A Reporter: Some PR Pros Are Stuck In 1960

I read in The New York Times about an upcoming one-day strike involving fast food employees wanting more money. If your business ever faces such a situation and you have a heads up, how do you prepare?

  1. Don’t always pass the buck and rely on a spokesperson from a trade association to talk on your behalf. This option is better than offering “no comment” but not significantly better. When I was a TV reporter, companies sometimes redirected me to a trade association. I considered that somewhat lame. If you can build a business, you can stand up for yourself. If you can pay a public relations firm, you can pay it to talk instead of simply not commenting and releasing a robotic statement.
  2. Identify someone who is comfortable talking to the media. Your CEO might excel at making money but struggle with social situations when people are not kissing his or her butt.
  3. If you plan to be brave enough to grant interviews, pick a location now. Do you consider your building a friendly location? Would you prefer to visit the media outlet itself? Is there a location that would strategically reinforce your key messages?
  4. If your business faces something such as a protest, realize the media will hear personal stories about why you suck. You better come to the table with personal stories of why you are successful. You must have people, clients or customers willing to sing your praises.
  5. Your critics will be plain spoken in explaining their concerns. Drop the lingo. Don’t act like a king who can’t speak like a regular person.
  6. Hopefully somebody went through media training. You’re about to get questions you never considered. You should know how to address the unexpected without looking like a fool or making matters worse.
  7. Don’t offer no comment. Why surrender the public debate? Why release a lame statement while your opponents tell emotional stories with passion? Sure, that’s the safe approach your attorney may relish, but what’s the longterm cost to your reputation and bottomline?
  8. I shook my head when major corporations claimed they had no one locally who could speak to me on camera. You know the story is coming. Are you really going to win the war by huddling over some speakerphone and talking to the media from a New York office? Have people trained in major cities and regions to handle the media. Hire a team of spokespeople you trust. Buy someone a plane ticket to the necessary city. If this is not practical, offer a web interview. What’s your excuse for not doing that? What, you don’t have a Skype account?
  9. Don’t act as if your fans don’t know your troubles or controversies. They know and would likely be your biggest defenders. So don’t forget about sharing your views on your website’s newsroom and across your social media channels. I love when companies are stuck in a brewing controversy and their Facebook posts only highlight their latest sales.
  10. What about communicating with your employees?  In fact, one of your first steps should be to communicate with them, whether they plan to protest or not. You might need to craft separate messages to various audiences. Do you have a social media policy? Are employees clear about using social media in times like this?

Media Training: No Peeing Wearing Microphones

Thursday, November 28th, 2013

As a television reporter, I saw my share of microphone mishaps. Someone I was interviewing outside once walked into a building wearing our wireless microphone. We heard him tell someone we were wasting his time. Another time I was logging video. The video recorded a moment when I was sitting in a vehicle and the subject of our interview stood outside wearing a wireless mic. The camera recorded audio of him softly telling someone I seemed like a “prick.” The following example of forgetting to turn off a microphone happens more often than most of us would like to hear. At least this example made people laugh. The other possibility is making people really mad. With smartphones also acting as recording devices, staying alert of microphones when working with the media is more important than ever before.


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