It’s been called a “Train wreck” and “tough to watch”. Even the White House is “alarmed”.  The headlines and tweets were merciless.  Already described by many (in both parties) as unqualified for the job of Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos did herself no favors while being grilled by Leslie Stahl on “60 Minutes”.

 

 

Unprepared. For “60 MINUTES”! The premier destination for television interviews not just in this day and age but in American history!!! My first thought, this was akin to playing in the Super Bowl without practicing the week prior but after watching the interview multiple times – it’s more like starting the season without a playbook!

(we’d love to post the entire 12 minute interview but CBS has placed a copyright on it)

The shame of it is – throwing gasoline atop a mountain of fervent criticism was avoidable – with just a few hours of preparation! DeVos said she was “…committed to a process that’s fair for everyone involved”  and “…committed to giving students an opportunity to learn in an environment that is conducive to learning”

She needs to commit to a few talking points – quickly.

For example, this exchange touches on the ONE area where DeVos should be well versed. She’s been an advocate for School Choice for years and in fact, it’s the platform that got her appointed:

DEVOS: Well, in places where there have been — where there is — a lot of choice that’s been introduced — Florida, for example, the — studies show that when there’s a large number of students that opt to go to a different school or different schools, the traditional public schools actually — the results get better, as well.

STAHL: Now, has that happened in Michigan? We’re in Michigan. This is your home state.

DeVOS: Michi — Yes, well, there’s lots of great options and choices for students here.

STAHL: Have the public schools in Michigan gotten better?

DEVOS: I don’t know. Overall, I – I can’t say overall that they have all gotten better.

STAHL: The whole state is not doing well.

DEVOS: Well, there are certainly lots of pockets where this — the students are doing well and –

Oh man – at least know what’s happening in your home state, know a few numbers. Pick a school any school, spin it! Cite the actual study in Florida, cite any real study! Have an argument- ONE talking point,ONE! Please. 

The only thing she really had going for her was honesty. When asked if she had visited any under performing schools she admitted, she hadn’t. When asked what her confirmation hearing was like she gave her best line, “I’ve not had a root canal but I can imagine having one might be more pleasant than that was”. Great analogy! She even opened up about the constant criticism “hurting” at times and you could tell she was feeling it right then and there.

We can’t help but think some of that honesty, infused with a few simple facts may have given her a passing grade – or at the very least upgraded the interview from “train wreck” status.

We’d like to know who exactly is counseling DeVos? Are any communications professionals on staff, any experts/advisors there to help? Anyone? Secretary DeVos give us a call! Your reputation depends on it!

 

Chris Jensen Interview courtesy of @Intelivideo

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Want to make sure you deliver all of your talking points? Want to have the “Last Word”? Here’s a simple and effective tactic used by Chris Jensen of Chase for Business in Denver, CO.  At the end of an on-set interview during Denver Startup Week, he realized he had one more thing to say so, when the thank you’s came from the hosts he quickly but politely interjected “… Can I say one more thing?”  they of course accommodated him and he made his comment relatively quick.  The host was right “that was a good closer!”                

Our only critique? Don’t ask! If you really want to get one final message or talking point across just say “and let me add one more thing…” OR  “..before we go, I’ve got one more comment to make…”

Unless the producers are REALLY pressed for time the hosts will almost ALWAYS let you make that final comment. If they don’t, they risk looking rude themselves. Most anchors don’t want to be seen in that light. So, go for it, have that last word!   

We’re often asked, “If I don’t like the way an interview is going, is it ok to walk away?” The answer, 10 out of 10 times the “walk off” will become the story, making it seem, among other things, like you’re hiding something! In the example here, Rep. Rod Blum, from Iowa sat down with a local reporter before a town hall meeting on the vote to replace Obamacare, he didn’t stay long. We’ll add that the congressman was right! The reporter seemed to have an agenda. What the congressman failed to prepare for – was delivering on his *own* agenda – with skillfully crafted messaging. That’s why it’s called media “relations”. We can cite numerous examples of an interviewees walking out on us during our reporting careers and bet nary a one would say after-the-fact, it was better to walk out than “face the music”. It gives such bad, brand damaging optics. Especially with dozens of kids gathered around!

Know going in, you won’t ever be able to predict all the questions you’ll get, which is why it’s imperative to have prepared key messages – goals in mind – to successfully navigate an interview that turns confrontational.

We can teach you how, so you’ll never have to entertain the Rod Blum “Walk Off”.

 

Click below to set up a free consultation!

 

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An unfortunate double whammy here! Attorney General Jeff Sessions made the morning show rounds recently to discuss among other things, the investigation into former NSA head Mike Flynn’s alleged ties to the Russia. Sessions was behind the 8-ball due to Presidents Trump’s tweets and comments that the story is “fake news” while the administration’s own Justice Department is investigating the issue.The mixed messages are compounded by Sessions refusal to offer comment. By passing the buck he seems defensive and uncertain, he even chastises Savannah Guthrie for asking. Sessions could have been more diplomatic, “ that’s not for me to decide – or- my personal opinion is irrelevant, the investigation is ongoing and that result will ultimately determine whether or not it was warranted. Since I’ve recused myself, I’m not able to say more than that ”.

 

 

That revised answer is basically saying “no comment” without actually saying it, which is a good rule to live by if you can’t or don’t want to address a sticky subject. I wonder, had Guthrie asked just one more time, how uncomfortable might it have been?

Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks and star of the hit reality show “Shark Tank” is widely thought of as a very opinionated, personable, well spoken guy – even NBA referee’s don’t mind his jawing – most of the time! Which is why it surprised us when we saw this recent clip on CNN. In his first answer to Jake Tapper which lasted about :45 seconds Cuban uttered the dreaded “umm” SEVEN times! Maddeningly distracting – the “crutch” overshadowed his message, which was a critique of President Trump.Cuban was clearly there to talk politics and he obviously has an opinion but it’s also clear he did not prepare well to deliver that critique. Even if you THINK you know your material cold it always pays to develop talking points beforehand.

In just one session, FRMediaTrain can show you the tactics we use to make sure “Umm” doesn’t show up in your answers!

When you are representing a brand, any brand, whether it’s a company or even a political figure like President Trump, you have to be prepared and you have to be on-point. Press Secretary Sean Spicer not only uttered the phrase “I am not aware” 11 times in 80 seconds but then attempted to connect two phrases, “I’m not aware” and “ I don’t have reason to believe” as being synonyms! Are they? Not knowing and not believing are two separate things, but more importantly it goes to show that in any meeting with the press, you always want to be prepared with simple, concise and absolute messaging.  A reporter asking you to “speculate” is one of 6 types of questions a reporter is likely to ask. (see below) FRMediaTrain is prepared to arm you with powerful and practical tips that you can utilize to protect, preserve and promote your brand in any situation. Be Aware!

Boy, does he ever! The Vice President made the rounds of the morning talk shows to promote President Trump’s first major address to Congress. He made 5 appearances that morning and it mattered not what questions he was asked! The Washington Post edited and posted this video and added their own graphics to make the point.

Our point is – Pence did his job. No matter what network the audience may have watched that morning, they received the message the White House wanted to send. Though we could have done without the “broad shoulders” description of the President!

At FRMediaTrain we’ve spent more than 40 years as reporters, firing questions at all types of people- athletes, politicians, criminals, public servants, lawyers and regular folks on the street.

We know exactly what to ask to get the answers we want from our unsuspecting and sometimes uncooperative, interviewees. HOWEVER, those techniques really just boil down to SIX questions (hat tip to Brad Phillips for breaking it down in list form):

  1. A QUESTION YOU DON’T KNOW THE ANSWER TO 
  2. A QUESTION THAT ASKS YOU TO SPECULATE
  3. WE’LL ASK FOR YOUR PERSONAL OPINION
  4. A YES or NO QUESTION
  5. “THIRD PARTY” QUESTIONS
  6. AND REPEATED QUESTIONS … REPEATED!

To learn exactly how to identify and deal with these questions (without a “No Comment”) in a way that won’t come across as evasive, defensive or rude – send us an email – the consultation is free!

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Howard Schultz Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is not my favorite corporate boss, after all he sold out the Seattle Supersonics! However, personal feelings aside, in terms of media relations Schultz knows what he’s doing. He wins this interview by showing emotion and comes across as honest and relaxed as a CEO can when talking about layoffs and store closings. He listens intently and gives candid answers with personal examples. Instead of citing facts and figures to justify the layoffs he TELLS A STORY! He talks about the “people not the stores” which engenders sympathy. FYI, the location sends the same message, they’re in a Starbucks, not some lifeless boardroom or in front of some generic studio backdrop.