One would think in the 21st century, there might not be the need for a candidate for the US Senate to take to the airwaves to declare “I am not a witch.” One would be wrong.
Delaware candidate Christine O’Donnell already known for her widely-circulated past statements on masturbation (against it) and evolution (“just a theory”), felt it necessary to assure Delaware voters in her first general election campaign ad that, “I’m nothing you’ve heard.”
O’Donnell is attempting to counter a widely circulated ten-year old clip from her appearance on the late-night “Politically Incorrect” show, in which she talks about “dabbling in witchcraft.” Speaking directly into the camera, in conservative dress and pearls, to reach voters who might be concerned with those clips, O’Donnell promises to go to Washington if elected and “do what you’d do. I am you,” she assures.
Predictably the “witch ad” has “gone viral”, with spoofs of the unusual denial (including a MTV style version set to music), reaching far outside the confines of voters in the First State.
The denial of witchcraft has to be a first for a modern-day political candidate, but the lessons learned from O’Donnell’s big gamble are well-worn. They are:
- Don’t try to prove a negative.
Richard Nixon’s “I am not a crook” declaration stayed in our collective memory long after our consciousness about the details of the Watergate crimes he was talking about. By declaring, “I am not a witch,” O’Donnell begs us to consider whether she is one, giving the accusation further credibility. The personal need to answer her critics is understandable but reaction is likely to be the exact opposite of what she intended.
- Grow some thicker skin.
Politicians and would-be politicians will be scrutinized closely and made to endure no end of outrageous insult. To those who claim this is a new phenomenon, recall the 1952 Senate campaign when Claude Pepper’s opponent warned voters “His daughter is a self-admitted, practicing thespian!” While there are indeed times accusations must be answered, the ad puts O’Donnel even further into the bizarre camp. It’s important not to overreact, especially considering her own words were what started the controversy.
- They’re listening. Now what?
Surely, there are some national issues O’Donnell would rather be talking about than masturbation and witchcraft. What she’s done is ensure just weeks before the election that she won’t be talking about them. She has failed, despite her notoriety, to deal with the perception that she’s not ready for prime time. Working to deliver a coherent message about her vision for her constituents would have worked far better to turn the negative attention into something positive. Unfortunately, being unable to articulate that vision makes it even more likely the attention will stay on the bizarre or unusual statements she’s uttered.
- Play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.
Ms. O’Donnell, I suspect, might admit live interviews and appearances are not her strong suit. This is what practice and preparation are for. In appearance after appearance, by even the friendliest of interviewers, and even on the most basic of issues, Ms. O’Donnell appears painfully flustered and unprepared. She may have benefitted from more local media interactions before she was forced to face the much harsher national spotlight. Surely she would have benefitted from some media training to work on how to communicate what she actually stands for.
- Try some humor.
People vote for people they like. People like those who are comfortable in their own skin. Defensiveness and counter accusations wear thin. Some self-deprecating humor, coupled with some genuine and positive messages about her vision of change surely would have worked better for Ms. O’Donnell. Until and unless she can overcome her communication failures, Christine O’Donnell will continue to be defined by them.
Ever wonder why some executives repeatedly win positive media attention for themselves and their companies? Reporters on deadline return again and again to sources they know. But how do you get on their source list in the first place? How do you position yourself as an industry expert, trend setter, or market leader?
You do it by understanding what reporters need. Introducing your capabilities to the media to lift your profile is a combination of persistence and preparation.
Begin by making a list of those media outlets and reporters covering your industry; locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Look for opportunities to contact reporters when you read, hear or see a story they've authored that's in your field. If they've done a good job, tell them. Also be prepared to tell them what you might have added to the story.
Identify areas of legitimate news that reporters covering your industry can hear from you first. If you're a source of information, even if it isn't directly about your company, you become valuable to the reporter. Be ready to add valuable perspective to the story--educating the reporter in effect and by doing so, becoming a source for future stories. Every reporter, but particularly beat and industry reporters, thrive on such relationships.
Once you've introduced yourself to reporters, make sure you understand how to stay valuable in order to serve both your needs. There is much to gain for the executive who speaks to the public through reporters, and of course, there's more to lose as well. For those executives who understand their role in shaping image, direction and mission, and who can communicate larger ideas effectively to a reporter, the rewards are substantial. .
Once you're ready to become a source for reporters, there are some basics to keep in mind. Here are some tips to help you once you've earned that media spotlight:
Accessibility counts (a lot): If you're going to work with the media, you're going to have to accept that reporters live by the deadline. That means the interview they absolutely must have is the one they need now. If you're going to accept the interview, accept it immediately so the reporter won't move on to the next, more accessible source. You can set the interview for any time before that deadline, once they know you will talk.
Interview the interviewer: Any legitimate reporter will be amenable to answering a few questions prior to the interview--especially questions designed to put you at ease about their credibility or their purpose. At minimum, ask the reporter what he or she wants you to contribute, who else has been or will be interviewed, and when the reporter's deadline is. Don't ask specifically what questions will be asked.
Know what you want to say: This is called messaging and it's a vital part of the process of speaking to any reporter. You are not speaking with a reporter just to answer their questions. This is your opportunity to deliver a message of your own. Take it!
Less is more: Speaking to reporters requires getting to the bottom line as quickly, and as quotably, as you can. Deliver the supportive data, facts and backup information after you're sure you've delivered your bottom-line message. Try to make your message as accessible as you can to the greatest number of people (no jargon!)
Practice, practice, and practice: It takes a while to get comfortable with developing messages, reducing them to a few well-spoken statements, and staying on message through questions. Start with local and trade reporters. The more you do it, the better you will get. No matter which reporters you speak to, trade, local, regional or national, print or broadcast, follow the same process.
You don't need legions of public relations staff working for you to begin your media outreach. You can build your own relationships with reporters and begin your own outreach. Give reporters what they need--access, good quotes and reliable information--and you'll be rewarded with access to their audience. Seize those opportunities for yourself, your department and your agenda.
Aileen Pincus is President of The Pincus Group, a media training firm near Washington DC that also provides speech, presentation and crisis communications training. A former local and national television reporter, Senior Hill Staffer and communications executive, Aileen and her staff provide executive communications worldwide. She can be reached at https://www.thepincusgroup.com
Article Source: https://EzineArticles.com/expert/Aileen_Pincus/2411
Is your media trainer qualified? Here’s how to make sure the media training expert you select knows the score.
We hope you’ll select The Pincus Group, of course, but regardless of whom you select for your media training, here are some criteria to help you make the right choice:
PICK A MEDIA TRAINER WHO HAS WORKED IN THE MEDIA
Sounds simple enough, but don’t assume your trainer has real world experience. Some so-called “media trainers” have never set foot in a newsroom. Some have backgrounds in public relations, sales, marketing or even entertainment—but if the best experience your trainer has is coming in contact with reporters—find another trainer. Interacting with the media is a ‘full contact’ sport, often with much at stake. There are good, qualified media trainers available: trainers who come to training after a career in journalism. Find one, and you will find a trainer who knows the real story about what you’ll need to deliver a successful, powerful interview.
DON’T PICK A MEDIA TRAINER WHO HAS ONLY WORKED IN THE MEDIA
Finding a media trainer with real media experience is essential, but don’t stop there. Your trainer simply has to have experience working on the other side of the fence to be truly effective. That’s because reporters are famously unconcerned about the consequences of their stories. Contrary to popular opinion, the vast majority are not advocates and simply don’t care whether you’re harmed or helped as a result of their story. As the interviewee, of course, you care a great deal. That’s why it’s important to be sure your media coach understands both worlds, the media’s perspective and yours, as the subject of media interest. Find a trainer with at least some experience in advocacy communications, either as a spokesperson or in some other role. You want a trainer with knowledge of the practical tools of media interaction: messaging and positioning. Don’t engage a media trainer who has never dealt with those tools or with the aftermath of a media interview gone wrong.
BIGGER ISN’T ALWAYS BETTER
The largest public relations and management training firms say they offer media training in their portfolio of services. They do, after a fashion. Media training is a special expertise however and one few large firms invest in. If you choose a big firm, make sure you check the credentials of the person slated to do your training. Dig deep to assure yourself the trainer is a seasoned media professional—someone with advocacy and media experience—not just a member of the account team or a trainer who has only watched reporters at work.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS, BUT NOT ALL EXPERIENCE COUNTS EQUALLY
Look for a media trainer who is a good match for your specific needs. If you’re preparing for print interviews only, a media trainer with experience limited to the broadcast media won’t be the best choice. If television interviews are on your agenda, make sure your trainer understands that TV reporters aren’t just print reporters who use pictures. If you’re playing in the big leagues, don’t assume your trainer understands the very rough and tumble world of the major markets. Find a trainer with the expertise you need for the types of media encounters you specifically want to prepare for: from small markets to the majors, from trade papers to general interest. ASK if your trainer is experienced in preparing for live remotes as well as taped interviews, ambush interviews as well as press conferences.
FIND A MEDIA TRAINER YOU CAN TRUST AND THEN TRUST THEM
If dealing with the media were easy, there’d be no need for media trainers. In reality, even those who interact with the media regularly can get into trouble over something they said or didn’t say to a reporter. It takes time and effort to move from basic techniques to the delivery of really powerful, effective interviews and the confidence to know the difference. Stay away from any media coach who promises you’ll be ready to take on “60 Minutes” after an hour of their “coaching”. If you don’t have internal staff to help keep you on track with new skills, make sure your trainer is available for follow-up help. An effective trainer builds confidence through positive reinforcement and honest and direct feedback. He or she has to be experienced enough to identify your needs, and confident enough to guide you toward real improvement. A good media trainer is like a good reporter: professional, tough, and fair (even if you hope they’re not staying for dinner).
CHECK FOR RESULTS
This is not an academic exercise: results count. Ask for references. Choose a media trainer the way you’d choose your doctor—do some homework. After all, this is the professional who will help you maintain the health of your reputation and the success of your career.
Few appearances will test your ability to communicate well more than the investor presentation. Doing your homework, settling on strategy, developing messages, honing a pitch and delivering it well, will take time and a lot of practice. However, the judgment of your performance will be swift. Your audience will decide within the opening minute of your pitch, whether they want to hear more.
With so much at stake, there is simply no room for error on the basics. Investors won’t be sold on a good idea poorly presented. However powerful your product or idea, your presentation must be targeted to this very specific audience to be successful. Keep these basics in mind when preparing for your investor presentation:
- Where’s the beef? It’s simply not enough to explain your product or idea. Investors want to know whether that product or idea presents a worthwhile market opportunity for them. You must show you understand this potential and have done your homework well enough to be able to describe it from their point of view.
- Know the lay of the land: Know what others are doing in your field and how your idea or product stacks up to the competition. Who are your competitors, and what makes your product unique in comparison to them?
- Short and succinct: Investors will not invest in something they cannot understand or explain easily to others. No matter how complex or sophisticated your idea is, you simply have to be able to talk about it in a way that anyone, even those outside your field, can understand.
- Confidence is catching: Enthusiasm and confidence are essential in convincing investors of the need and worth of your idea. Hone and practice your pitch as much as possible to nail this one.
- Present like a pro: Keep your pitch short and powerful with a clear flow and a logical progression. Don’t forget to close the deal with a call to action and a clear “ask” about what you’ll need financially to make this investment a success for all.
Remember to let your passion and your confidence shine through. Invest in your presentation and your investors are more likely to invest in you.
A once little-known senator from Illinois became living proof of the power of one great speech to launch a national political career. We’ve now had a painful reminder of just the opposite: a disastrous speech that may dim the national spotlight for an un-tested speech-maker.
Governor Bobby Jindal had his national debut February, delivering his party’s response to the President’s first speech to the joint Congress. It wasn’t just that Jindal suffered by comparison to the accomplished communicator-in- chief (he did), but that he failed by any measure.
The popular Louisiana Governor, touted as the “rising star” of his party, not only fell miserably short of communicating his message. Both stylistically and substantively, Jindall proved, in just one amateurish, jarring performance, he was not ready for the national stage.
Jindall’s mistakes were numerous and they were devastating. Chief among them:
- Tone-deafness: In an apparent effort to overcome his ’first geek’ image, the Governor tried on a new, folksy demeanor. Not only did the result appear staged and uncomfortable, it had the unfortunate effect of branding him un-statesmanlike. Call this the Al Gore lesson: Seek to show you are comfortable in your own skin. Don’t confuse public speaking performance with acting.
- Message-deafness: Jindal’s speech seemed oddly disconnected from all that preceded it. A lengthy introduction juxtaposing the president’s immigrant roots with Jindal’s own seemed out of place given the urgency of the crisis he was there to address. His on-going criticism of big government, coming as it did from the governor of a state receiving billions of federal dollars in Katrina aide, coupled with finger-wagging lessons on clean government from a state not known for it, only further strained his credibility. Lesson learned: Get the right messages. Warning: Proximity to the speechmaker may cause blurred vision. Seek an objective critique outside the inner circle.
- Image-deafness: For all the hype surrounding President Obama’s “natural” talents as a communicator, his is a learned skill, honed most recently over a grueling, two-year campaign. Jindal’s attempts at imitation were painfully unsuccessful. His hallway walk to the camera was awkward, the standing delivery painful to watch, the disconcerting hand motions, sing-song delivery, and tentative voice at best amateurish. Lesson learned: Play to your strengths. Imitation is not flattering for the one doing the imitating. Find your leadership communication style, work on it, own it.
Whether Jindal will recover from his stunningly poor performance is yet to be determined. What is certain is the continued and dominant role powerful public speaking will play, even in this digital age.
Media interviews can be difficult even for those used to public and media attention -but they can be downright terrifying for those who’ve never been in the media spotlight before.
For many who’ve never interacted with the media, fear of the media usually stems from a feeling of lack of control in the process, and concern over the reporter’s motives in doing the interview. Will I be able to answer the reporter’s questions? How will I know the reporter won’t make me look bad?
Reporters, of course, understand many of their interview subjects will react this way, and good ones will do what they can to put their interviewees at ease. Reporters though have a tendency to believe people’s fears about the media are, for the most part, groundless. As a media trainer and former reporter, I know it’s not that simple. Facts often don’t speak for themselves and interview subjects can indeed look foolish, inept or worse, even if that wasn’t the reporter’s aim.
The goal of media training is to teach you how to serve both reporters’ goals and your own, truthfully, factually, and with confidence. Media training is designed first and foremost to allow interview subjects to understand how to exercise the control they often don’t even know they have over the process.
The first thing for the novice interviewee to understand is that he or she is in far greater danger from a reporter who doesn’t get it, than from a reporter who is out to get you. The vast majority of reporters want to get the story right. If they work for a mainstream news organization, there are standards they must meet and higher ups to hold them accountable to those standards. That’s not to say reporters don’t sometimes get it wrong. It means if they’re a professional, they have a stake in getting it right and value their reputations. That means you need to concentrate on telling them what they need to know to get it right. I firmly believe that it’s always in people’s best interests to engage the media rather than shun them. Here are some basic rules for media interviews for you to keep in mind:
- No Spin: Don’t lie to a reporter. Ever. It doesn’t mean you have to tell all, explain all and reveal all. It means you need to maintain your credibility at all times by making sure the veracity of what you say can be counted on. It also has the advantage of reducing the need to correct statements later.
- Preparation is key: Reporters are looking to tell a story others can relate to or at least find a connection with. Think beforehand about the main points you want to make with a reporter and how you want to get those points across. This is called messaging and it’s a vital part of any interaction with a reporter.
- Think about why you’re being interviewed: You are probably not speaking with a reporter just to provide them with raw data. More likely, you’re there to provide some kind of perspective. Concentrate then on the bigger picture regarding the issue or the event — as an expert, an observer or a participant.
- Less is more: Speaking to reporters requires getting to the bottom line as quickly, and as quotably, as you can. Deliver the supportive data, facts and backup information after you’re sure you’ve delivered your message. Try to make your message as accessible as you can to the greatest number of people (no jargon, slang, or “inside language”) and if you tell a story, make sure it’s a succinct one that makes the point you really want to make.
- Practice, practice, and practice: It takes a while to get comfortable with developing messages, reducing them to a few well-spoken statements, and staying on message through questions. The more you do it, the better you will get. No matter which reporters you speak to — trade, local, regional or national, print or broadcast — follow the same process of knowing who you are speaking to, for what reason, and determining what you want to say.
Media interviews should be a process of mutual gain. The media gets information, perspective, an interesting story or point of view, and you in turn get to reach the audience watching and listening to that segment of media. So give reporters what they’re looking for-access, good quotes and reliable information-and you’ll be rewarded with access to their audiences. Don’t let your lack of experience stop you from engaging with the media and with the public you want to reach.
The mere thought of being interviewed by a reporter is enough to send shivers down the spine of even the most accomplished executive.
There's a good reason for that. Individual careers, as well as company stock prices have vaulted to new heights-- or crashed to new lows-on the basis of what someone said to a reporter.
Think of the press release HOT POCKETS brand sandwiches sent reporters in the wake of the tragic events of September 11th- linking a return to normal American life with their new line of sandwiches. The resulting publicity couldn't have been what the company had been hoping for.
Remember the criticism tennis star Martina Hingis drew for her (pre-media training) description of opponent Amelie Moresmo as "half a man."
Many blame "media sharks" for high profile cases of reputation implosion. A closer look reveals less a taste for blood, than a pronounced indifference on the part of the media for protecting people and institutions bent on committing professional suicide.
In this day and age of media proliferation, with more cable, broadcast, on-line, and print media outlets, you have more of an opportunity than ever before to get your company's messages out through the media. Here are some of the rules to follow when the media comes calling:
#1 Do your homework:
If you have a communications department, use it! Reporters will not use channels to get to you unless you leave them no choice. Insist your communications or public relations department be the first contact for reporters, for the simple reason that it gives you time to find out vital information such as who the reporter is, which outlet the reporter works for, and why the reporter is seeking your input. If you don't have a communications or p.r. department, make sure you ask the reporter those questions yourself before proceeding. No responsible, professional reporter will refuse to answer such basic questions.
#2 Know what you want to say:
Sounds basic enough, right? You'd be surprised at the number of executives who miss the opportunity to communicate a positive message about themselves and their companies through the media. The typical interviewee simply waits for the reporter to ask the questions and hopes for the best. The reporter has no interest in delivering your message for you, unprompted. Instead, ask yourself who will read, hear or see the story, and what message you want to convey to them.
#3 Know how you want to say it:
Give them a choice, and reporters will go for the snappy quote or ' sound bite' over the carefully chosen, detailed explanation every time. It's not what you say, but the way you say it that is going to make all the difference when speaking to a reporter.
Distilling your points down to their bare essence takes some practice, but unless you want the reporter to do it for you, you'll have to be succinct. If it helps you get there, remember you don't have to be simplistic to keep your message simple. (See rule number 2).
#4 Know when to stop talking:
Media interviews aren't "conversations." Say what you mean to say and then stop talking. It's all the explanations, qualifications and by-the-ways that often get executives into trouble. (In politics, it's called "staying on message". Scorn all you want, the interviewee who stays on message is an interviewee far less likely to be drawn into areas of trouble.)
#5 Answer the question:
Don't try to finesse your way out of answering questions you'd rather not answer. If there are areas you won't discuss, tell the reporter immediately what they are and why. (i.e. Never say, "No comment." Say, "I can't talk about that because there's a lawsuit pending, but here's what I can tell you:") If you know you're going to face some tough questions, practice, practice, practice what you want to say. Otherwise, you might get caught up in the moment and say something you may regret.
Finally, remember the proverbial directions to Carnegie Hall: "practice, practice, practice!" On-line media outlets are different than journals, magazines or newspapers; radio is different than print; television is a medium unto itself, but all media reporters share a common goal of searching for a story to tell. Your job is to give them one that benefits you as well.