Why It Matters in Today’s Changing Media World

In this immediate Twitter age, this era of “Fake News” and cable networks that lean toward the political poles there is a supreme need to stand out. One way to do it is to be loud, be controversial, be.. well, polarizing. Of course, if that’s the case you’re probably only being heard by half the audience, the half that agrees with you.

However, if you want to be seen as a go-to expert, no matter the outlet on which you appear or how people perceive your credentials, prepare the way Jeremy Bash prepares!

During the Obama administration Bash was a Chief of Staff at the Department of Defense and before that the CIA. He’s a regular on MSNBC lending his perspective to various political and national security crises. Without a doubt, his ideology leans left and he is critical of the current administration. But, dare I say, no matter the political bent his comments would work on ANY network because they are delivered so colorfully and to the point. The reason is simple, he’s prepared and practiced.    

Take for instance, this exchange with Brian Williams, after a Washington Post report was published alleging the President gave highly classified intelligence to the Russian foreign minister during his Oval Office visit. It’s simply soundbites gold!

In his opening sentence, Bash immediately captures the audience (and set off a Tweetstorm of reaction) with his “face palm” analogy. Then, he outlined his reasons why, stating two distinct and clear points for the audience, tying everything together. He actually counted, “1” and “2” keeping everyone engaged. Don’t think for a minute this came off the top of his head! Sure, Bash is paid for these types of provocative comments but in just about 40 minutes of preparation, he clearly thought about the message he wanted to deliver and exactly *HOW* he would phrase it.

Even after the second question Bash used a PREPARED comment, adding even more perspective to his previous opinion with another example of why he thought the news was so stunning and concerning. He held no punches, calling the Russians the “least trustworthy intelligence service on the planet” and throwing in another colorful term with the “golden jewels” description.

The first answer was :32 seconds, the 2nd answer was :22 seconds. In that setting, the perfect time frame which you can bet, was also pre-planned and practiced! Bash came up with a succinct, colorful way to deliver his points right off the bat using his own expertise and experience as a backdrop.

Bash gets a paycheck to deliver his opinion because he has expert credentials, having worked at the highest levels of government, but also because he’s never boring. Here’s a quick clip from the same show 6 weeks ago soon after the White House fired national security adviser Michael Flynn. It’s another example of a descriptive, splashy soundbite that went viral as Bash described how he saw the crisis and the response from Capitol Hill.

Ohh-kaay, He didn’t yell, he wasn’t attacking, he didn’t insult, he simply told a “story” as a way to deliver his expert opinion. Again, soundbite gold! Great examples that illustrate, regardless of whether you’re paid to give your opinion and no matter which side of an issue you lean, you can have an impact. Preparing to deliver your message will always make it resonate with an audience and FRMediaTrain can show you how!  

 

 

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”.

 

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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?

There’s little debate, we have a runaway winner for the title of Greatest Corporate PR Disaster of 2017! In a year full of them, Uber, Wells Fargo, Pepsi, Volkswagen – as bungled as they all were – they all take a back (row) seat to United Airlines. Social media and news outlets everywhere lit up with outrage and brand damaging chatter when video of a passenger being dragged off a plane by police went viral. The clip here from CNN briefly sums up what happened —-> After that video surfaced the internet jumped on what one crisis consultant called the “Hindenburg of airline customer service episodes”. It got exponentially worse as United committed one communication gaffe after another. Here are just a FEW of the self-inflicted wounds caused by their poor media/PR decisions   

A lack of empathy – even if your brand isn’t at fault, apologize or at least show empathy or frustration for the bad customer experience. United did neither on any of its channels to mitigate the crisis by displaying just an ounce of caring! Twitter would have been a good place to start- that’s where the customer outrage went viral! 

Played the victim blame game – In their first failed attempt at crisis control United released a statement meekly apologizing to passengers for having to “Re-Accommodate” some of them.  The internet went berserk! As in  ” #UnitedAirlines, We put the hospital in hospitality! “

 

 

 

 

They Doubled Down – Then a day later, in an attempt to assuage employees, United CEO Oscar Munoz sent an in-house letter (which was leaked quickly) calling the man who was dragged off the plane “belligerent” and “disruptive” in an attempt to actually justify their actions. Not only did they double down by blaming the customer, even if it is someone else’s fault – pointing the finger is never a good look. The internet crushed United again! The PR damage done to the brand will stick around for some time over a mere $800 (or what could have been slightly more) voucher. How much is your brand’s reputation worth?

 

No customer focus, no action taken – never make it about yourself (remember the BP CEO after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico who wanted “his life back”?) The first 24 hours of any crisis are the most critical for any brand and the most important steps and tactics are your first words or tweets.  Take responsibility, own it, apologize and provide information on your actions going forward to prevent such an incident from occurring again. You can even invite the public to hold you to those promises. 

United, on their third try, three days later, finally got it right. When you are in a hole, STOP DIGGING! 

 

 

In a crisis situation, we say it’s best follow your values, not your instincts – that approach will help you navigate your brand out of turbulent skies! It also pays to have professional help (*** Shameless plug, thanks United! ***) we’ve seen this kind of PR nightmare happen too many times, why wait until disaster unexpectedly strikes?

Let FRMediaTrain help, we GUARANTEE you’ll be more prepared than the “Friendly Skies” were!

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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 WHAT TO ASK to get the answers we want from our unsuspecting and sometimes uncooperative, interviewees.But that technique really just boils down to SIX questions we’re likely to ask:

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

To learn exactly how to identify and deal with these questions (without using a “No Comment”) in a way that wont seem defensive or rude – Click Below!

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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.