Posts Tagged ‘media training’
President Obama delivered an economic speech at Knox College and, according to The New York Times, here are some responses from Republican leaders:
Speaker John Boehner: “What’s it going to accomplish? You’ve probably got the answer: nothing. It’s a hollow shell. It’s an Easter egg with no candy in it.”
Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican minority leader: “With all the buildup, you’d think the president was unveiling the next Bond film or something. But in all likelihood it will be more like a midday rerun of some ‘70s B-movie. Because we’ve heard it all before. It’s old.”
The Associated Press reported that Boehner said the president’s new economic push was “all sizzle and no steak.”
Discussions about the economy raise references to Easter and James Bond. Do you think these references came off-the-cuff?
Behind closed newsroom doors, some journalists snicker and mock such contrived soundbites. But in reality, most reporters cannot prevent themselves from repeating such quotes. Politicians know it. Journalists might scoff at this, but think how easily politicians manipulate and ultimately control what reporters put in print and on the airwaves. When I interviewed someone, I almost always knew what soundbites I would use before leaving the room. But in most cases, unlike politicians, the people I interviewed most of the time provided those soundbites by accident without as much pre-planning.
You do not want to sound necessarily like a politician or create the same environment of cynicism. But politicians remind us that journalists almost always prefer a witty soundbite that encapsulates the subject in a few words as opposed to a very detailed analysis that puts people to sleep. Many journalists claim they hate clichés, but ultimately they often use them as soundbites. You do not want to sound robotic, but think of ways to control the message. Discuss ahead of time soundbites that journalists will view as steak at an expensive dinner. How can you help people understand your complex message in a relatable way? Do you need to bring up Easter eggs, James Bond or the Loch Ness monster? Do you need to explain you make enough product to fill a stadium? Do you need to point out new legislation includes enough paperwork to reach the moon?
Remember, journalists may claim they want vegetables at that high-priced dinner, but if you offer them steak and follow it up with some nice dessert, most of them cannot resist.
Yes, we took notice of the Cheerios commercial showing a white mom and an African American dad. We took notice because how many companies are willing to show interracial couples in their commercials? And why not? Look around. Couples whose faces do not look alike are part of America’s fabric. Look no further than our president. Look no further than my brother-in-law and sister-in-law.
But Cheerios still had to fend off people leaving shameful comments. (Notice comments are disabled for the video unlike other Cheerios commercials on YouTube.) And, according to a report, kids don’t understand why people would write such shameful words.
I grew up in a South Florida elementary school where most of my classmates were African American or Hispanic. Few of us cared about our different colors. We were so young, no misguided adults had time to teach us to dwell on such differences. By contrast, I attended an almost all-white high school where classmates sometimes discussed minority-related issues as if writing a thesis. In other words, they had no significant relationships with people of color.
So I don’t blame kids for wondering what the heck is wrong with some adults. This is one situation where a company should not worry about offending a portion of its audience. If part of its audience can’t accept parents whose faces are of different colors, a company need not worry too much about such customers.
We applaud Cheerios for showing a family few others will. But it’s sad if showing a white mom and African American dad is still considered a risk.
We read an article in The New York Times about a poll. The second paragraph read, “A majority, 57 percent, said that …”
The third paragraph included, “nearly 6 in 10 Americans said they disapproved of …”
The next sentence explained, “However, three-quarters said they approved of the …”
The article began by describing the poll results using three different methods. But we believe businesses should stay consistent and stick with one way in communicating statistics to the media. During media training, we watch clients want to share powerful statistics to help hammer home a key message. But statistics also can confuse an audience and lose significance. We understand someone may want to avoid repeatedly using the word “percentage.” But comparing, for example, 50% to 75% instead of comparing 50% to three-quarters simply seems more effective. Why force your audience to do any extra math? Keep it simple.
Erandi had both perfect and imperfect timing.
Venue safety expert Steven Adelman and I had just ended our journey to Victoria, British Columbia to speak at a conference. After two flights and a long taxi ride, a hotel clerk directed us down Government Street for food. We passed a fudge place, promising to return, and entered Bard and Banker Public House on a corner.
At the risk of drawing attention to ourselves, I placed my camera on the bar and set the timer. Erandi, one of the resturant’s servers, did not see my set-up and walked in frame at the precise moment the camera clicked twice.
“Ohhh,” Steve and I shouted simultaneously like when a sports fan’s favorite team just misses a big play. Steve wanted to see the shot immediately. It ended up our favorite photo of the trip, which probably isn’t saying much. Steve started explaining to Erandi the virtues of the candid shot and I announced aloud she probably regretted even passing our table. But she appeared genuinely interested and stood patiently for a while by our table. A man wearing a military ballcap one booth over smiled in amusement.
I ate a turkey sandwhich and we forgot to return for the fudge. The whole trip happened very fast and Erandi was part of the blur.
I was picking up the cleaners when a TV on the business’ wall showed my former colleague and arch nemesis Fox10 weatherman Cory McCloskey wearing a hairnet. Cory often took any opportunity he had to poke fun of me during his weather segments on the air. He once enlarged a picture of my head and had people fire tomatoes at it on a farm. (It was all in good fun.) On this morning, Cory wore a hairnet while giving us a live tour of a factory that makes tortilla chips. If anyone can wear a hairnet and have it fit in with his shtick, Cory can.
After Cory’s live shot, my other old friend anchorman Ron Hoon delivered a report from the newsroom. But a big, white plastic bag on a desk behind him grabbed my attention. The bag reminded me of one of those you pick up after shopping at the grocery store. A lot of similar plastic bags are stuffed in our kitchen closet. We save them as a backup plan to pick up after our dog Molly. You can see now how one stupid item in the background of your shot can get someone daydreaming. It would disappoint me when I aired what I considered to be an interesting interview and colleagues in the newsroom focused more on the person’s hair, clothes or the fact he or she was not even wearing a shirt. People notice crazy stuff.
I mentioned that paper bag to someone in the newsroom and he texted me back saying, “Keith … those are the homespun touches that make the Hooner so endearing. You know that.”
Not everyone is so endearing. When appearing on camera, clear your background of distractions. Don’t give viewers a reason not to hear your words. I have no idea what Ron Hoon was saying. But I’m sure it was important.
Ramble on and on and on without taking a breath.
Use lots of industry acronyms.
Top your acronyms with some lingo.
Give reporters, without them requesting it, a pile of paperwork because you can’t explain the issue yourself in a few sentences.
Insist how horrible something is when you haven’t even explained in simple terms what the heck you are talking about.
Mix together rumors and facts.
Overdramatize the impact of an issue to such an extent that you lose credibility.
Include statistics without a source to back them up.
Explain yourself in such complicated terms that reporters feel like they’re trying to unravel Watergate.
Do a lot of “blah, blah, blah” while actually saying very little.
Insisting the issue is hurting consumers without having a consumer for anyone to interview.