Archives for May 2015

It’s Easy When You Know the Answers

There’s an old saying among trial lawyers: “Never ask a question (of a witness) to which you don’t already know the answer.” On the other hand, no one should face the court of public opinion via the media or audiences in person, without first asking and answering for yourself the obvious questions.

Case, in point, Jeb Bush, presumptive Republican presidential candidate, brother of past-president George W. Bush, was caught off-guard in recent weeks and repeatedly contradicted himself in a number of public appearances failing to have a clear and concise answer on how he would have handled Iraq.

Photo courtesy of redstate.com

Photo courtesy of redstate.com

 

When asked if “knowing what we know now” — that U.S. intelligence was faulty and Saddam Hussein didn’t have weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — he would have invaded Iran, the former Florida Governor responded in the affirmative.

But then in the days following the interview, Bush insisted that he “misinterpreted” the question and corrected himself. “Knowing what we know now,” he would not have invaded Iraq.

Mr. Bush and his advisors would have done well to have asked and answered that question in media training before the inquiring minds of the media addressed it. In like manner, declared presidential Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton should by now have an answer to questions regarding her husband, former President Bill Clinton’s well-publicized affair during his term in office.

The goal of professional media training is not to predict all the questions, but to help a client craft answers to predictable questions. As a wise father once said to his daughter’s complaint that a test was hard, “it’s easy when you know the answers.”

Don’t Deflate Your Defense

In crisis media coaching as on the football field, the best defense is a good offense.

Defending their team’s actions, however, the New England Patriots chose an unusual offense.  This most recent case, dubbed ‘deflate-gate’ involves star quarterback Tom Brady whom the NFL has accused, along with two locker-room personnel, of intentionally deflating the game ball to gain a competitive advantage in the AFC Finals.

The evidence for this case varies from concrete to circumstantial, depending on whom you talk to and his/her particular football allegiance. In a response issued by the Patriots refuting many points, one argument stood out among the rest, and discredited the remaining 18,000 words.

Quarterback Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of panicbutton.sportsblog.com

Quarterback Tom Brady. Photo courtesy of panicbutton.sportsblog.com

Text messages between the two locker-room employees are used as primary evidence in the case against Brady. In these messages, one employee refers to himself as, “the deflator.”

To lessen the blow, the Patriots responded claiming “the deflator” was a term referring to his weight loss, not his act of cheating! Although many valid, well-argued points are raised regarding actual evidence,  this obvious and ludicrous lie makes all credibility and the rest of the defense, well, deflated.

When  good defenses are established, don’t lower their validity with extra, non-essential and ridiculous claims as the Patriots did.  A strong, truthful offense is the best defense, and the best way to inflate the confidence of your audience.

Consistent Messaging Not a Slam Dunk

Consistent messaging is one of READY FOR MEDIA’s 12 C’s of communication, and one of the most important. If you cannot effectively communicate with members of your own team, how can you expect to communicate with the public? In a recent playoff game, the Cleveland Cavaliers undermined their own emphasis against domestic violence with a video broadcast depicting a woman violently thrown down to the ground by her partner.

In a modern trend by professional sports teams to quell the rampant domestic abuse and violence that has plagued professional athletes for decades, the Cavaliers showed this clip during a game against the Chicago Bulls demonstrating the exact violence the team, as well as league and players, are trying to diminish.

In the video, a Cleveland fan and his female partner (stereotypically shown in an apron in the kitchen) are recreating a famous scene from the film, Dirty Dancing. In the clip, once the man realizes she is a Chicago Bulls fan, he throws her to the floor, injuring her. This blatant use of violence falls short of the humor it was supposed to show and instead is a perfect example of the irony between NBA’s voiced stance on domestic violence, and its actions.

The inability to be consistent in messaging, especially one as important and universal as domestic abuse, should be corrected by professional media strategy and communications coaching.