Archives for February 2016

Thank you for this moment

Early in life, we are told that fighting fire with fire will only make matters worse. But the fire of gratitude, diplomacy and goodness will squelch the fire of crudeness and rudeness, every time. Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift proved this useful lesson when she eloquently delivered her acceptance speech at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

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While the memory of Kanye West’s interruption of Ms. Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009 at the Video Music Awards still burned, he recently added fuel to his fire by releasing a song that indecently referenced his role in her success.

Despite the public’s anticipation over how Ms. Swift would react on stage to Mr. West’s inappropriate remarks, she handled it with class and confidence. By replacing the role of victim with role model, she took her power back and delivered a message to her audience of young women and girls.

  “As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” Swift said while she accepted the award for her album “1989”. “But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world. Thank you for this moment.”

Taylor Swift may be best known as a famous pop star, but she is also a savvy business woman. She creatively called on the loyalty of her fan base while garnering respect from a much larger audience.

Inc Magazine noted that she knows exactly how to protect her brand and her image. The lessons they took from Ms. Swift included:

  • Change the conversation
  • Keep the message about your brand or goals
  • Bring focus to a higher cause

In this case, Ms. Swift’s fire was classy, clever and confident.


Rubio’s Robotic Repeats

“It’s a good thing to stay on message until it’s not” wrote Forbes’ Magazine contributor, John Baldoni in response to Marco Rubio’s 4-time robotic repetition of the phrase ” Let’s dispel this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He’s trying to change America.”

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Every public speaker should get in touch with his/her core set of beliefs beforehand and organize them in three to five bullet points that can be internalized and incorporated in conversation. This way, there is a consistency of message and audiences know what you stand for. But, “speak like you mean it, not as if you simply memorized it, Mr. Baldoni continues.

Ronald Reagan was so adept as staying on message, yet delivered with warmth and sincerity that he became known as The Great Communicator. The late poet Maya Angelou wrote, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

And Mr. Rubio isn’t alone in debate mistakes. History is littered with presidential candidates who made media gaffes that came to define them. For Dan Quayle, it was a brief comparison between himself and John F. Kennedy in the 1988 presidential election. For Howard Dean in the 2004 Democratic primary, it was “the scream.” For Rick Perry in the 2012 Republican primary, it was “oops.” And for Michael Dukakis, again in 1988, it was his dispassionate policy-over-compassion remark on opposing the death penalty even with the hypothetical rape and murder of his beloved wife, Kitty.

Out of context, these seem fairly benign, but each reinforced the candidate’s perceived weakness. Dean screamed just as pundits questioned his temperament for the White House, while Perry stuttered in the face of uncertainty about his intelligence and Mr. Dukakis, his coldness.

And even, Governor Christie, who so rattled Mr. Rubio into robotically repeating his prepared soundbite, is legendary for bullying tactics.

There’s an old saying in media coaching, “the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink!”


Trumped Up

In the game of bridge, when you don’t have enough cards in the suit that’s being played, the trump card wins. And Donald Trump appears to be winning in the Republican presidential race of 2016.

But he’s not playing well with others or winning the media game that is ultimately required in presidential politics.

Following Mr. Trump’s complaints of Fox News host and co-moderator of the Republican debates, Megyn Kelly (“I don’t like her. She doesn’t treat me fairly”) the network responded by saying that regardless of who Mr. Trump is, he cannot pick the journalists who will ask the questions.

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So, Mr. Trump absented himself from the seventh Republican debate, in a version of stomping his feet, picking up his toys and going home from the playground. Seldom a winning strategy because, tirades aside, the Office of the President requires substance of thought and the traits and temperament of diplomacy and tact.

Media coverage is an opportunity to reveal your strengths in cogent, compassionate, and hopefully charismatic soundbites aired before the voting public. It’s essential to stay courteous when presenting yourself to and through the media. To disrespect reporters tarnishes your own image. Interviews are free advertising which show you to best advantage, if you learn how to spar and play the media game.

Jeb Bush came perhaps the closest when he teased Ms. Kelly about being in the same position as he, when it comes to Trump wrath.

“Acknowledge (the question) and Bridge to the Soundbite you came to give” is the guidance we give in media coaching to politicians and executives alike.  As in a dominoes game, if you don’t match your opponents dots and offer a side of your own, you’ll stay on the defensive forever. Far too many interviewees wait until a difficult question is asked and stumble to try to find an answer that won’t be harmful. Instead, bridge to a substantive answer to give the journalist something she can question. Leading the interview with your ready answers is the name of the game.

Megyn Kelly has voiced pride in women in politics on both sides of the aisle, “because I think there’s still a general approach to female candidates where people try to tar them as either nuts or sluts.”

But journalists have responsibilities, too. While Ms. Kelly purports to be doing her job without fear or favor, she gave Mr. Trump and his Twitter followers fuel for their Conservative fire with her provocative poses in white lingerie and a black slip and red stilettos for Gentleman’s Quarterly.

We do wish someone would ask the respected lawyer-turned reporter about her own judgment and good taste in creating the public trust a reporter requires. In short, “What were you thinking!”