Archives for July 2014

Everybody Makes Mistakes

Everyone needs media coaching once in a while, including Pope Francis. The Vatican has been recently involved in embarrassing situations due to poor media preparation. Time after time, Vatican spokesmen have been forced to release awkward clarifications after failed media opportunities. And more often than not, these clarifications cause more confusion. Pope Francis’ latest interview with 90-year old journalist Eugenio Scalfari was no exception. His interview published in the Italian newspaper “La Repubblica,” caused a messy aftermath that raised eyebrows and provoked debates due to the pope’s comments regarding pedophilia.

Pope Francis 2

Pope Francis’ was quoted as saying, “many of my advisers who are fighting pedophile priests with me are giving me reliable data that estimates pedophilia inside the church at a level of 2 percent.” Then he added, “Among the 2 percent who are pedophiles are priests, and even bishops and cardinals.” It is important to note that La Repubblica’s journalist has a reputation of choosing not to record or take notes during his interviews. But, regardless of what was exactly said, it is clear that the essence of the conversation revolved around a problem and not a solution. According to Phil Lawler, a writer for the Catholic Culture website, Pope Francis tends to speak off the cuff and does not usually rely on competent staff members who can brief him about any potential difficulties before he speaks to journalists.

Our Ready advice to Pope Francis and his communications team is to plan ahead. The Vatican press office should study the media outlet they will be dealing with and discuss any possible pitfalls that may arise during the conversation. Additionally, they should create message points that promote the Catholic Church’s cause in a positive way. This would allow Pope Francis to bridge his responses to those messages when facing difficult and controversial questions. In spite of Pope Francis’ intentions of speaking from his heart, he has to be aware that he is an influential figure. And as he most certainly found out, what he says to the media may have unexpected consequences.

The Best Defense

During a recent conversation with The Guardian, pop singing sensation Lana del Rey experienced a media disaster by steering the interview in the wrong direction.  According to Tim Jonze, Lana’s interviewer, she repeatedly expressed discontent with her life and said, “I wish I was dead already.” Reflecting the title of  her debut album “Born to Die,” she mentioned several of her idols and pointed out they had all died young. Personalities like Kurt Cobain, Amy Winehouse, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix were on her list

Lana del Rey

In our media trainings, we coach clients for follow-up questions, and advise them to choose answers which will take the interview in a direction they want to go.  This training is something Lana del Rey could have used as she attempted to promote  her newest album. When Ms. del Rey was asked about the title of her debut album “Born to Die,” she answered that she sees a certain “glamour” in dying young.

It was obvious that her dark-themed responses would lead her interviewer to ask further questions; probing the singer to divulge more information. It was then that Ms. del Rey mistakenly confessed that she finds the premature deaths of Amy Winehouse and Kurt Cobain to be glamorous and reiterated her desire to die, “I do, yeah, I do, I, you know, I don’t want to have to, like, keep doing this. You know, but I am.” She continued to disclose disturbing responses that left many of her fans shocked.

Ms. del Rey could have chosen to focus on facts that portrayed her success. For instance, she could have mentioned how her new album sold 880,000 copies in its first week worldwide. Instead, without an agenda of her own, Ms. Del Rey was at the mercy of the questioning.  Had she been more proactive and chosen to develop or sharpen her interview skills in a Los Angeles media training setting, she would have been more successful.  Instead, she now has to deal with the backlash that comes from negative media attention. A media interview is an opportunity to take the offense and accomplish what you will. Lana Del Rey wasted this opportunity.