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!”



If you can’t say something intelligent…

If you can’t say something intelligent, don’t say anything at all. It’s crucial to think before you speak, especially when speaking to the media. The purpose of an interview should be to advance your product, company or cause. In short, to lead the interview in a direction that is advantageous.

In a recent interview with the UK’s Evening Standard, Tinder CEO Sean Rad, made a multitude of media mistakes. Tinder is a hookup app that has revolutionized the dating scene using GPS for proximity and a simple swipe right or left to accept or deny.  Analysts believe the app, which launched in 2012, has around 80 million users worldwide and records 1.8 billion “swipes” a day. 

But in his interview, Mr. Rad failed to refrain from unnecessary topics and misbranded the company in a “cringe-worthy” conversation.


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In a few words, Mr. Rad was:

CARELESS: in advance of his parent company’s impending IPO.

SIMPLISTIC: “Tinder has managed to solve ‘the biggest problem in humanity: that you’re put on this planet to meet people.'”

MISINFORMED:  When trying to say that some men and women are attracted to intelligence — the term is sapiosexuality — Mr. Rad instead used the word “sodomy.” When he realized his mistake from his PR person’s near-heart attack and a quick mobile search, he recovered, saying: “What? No, not that. That’s definitely not me. Oh, my God.”

NAIVE: Mr. Rad explained his OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and complained of an overbearing Iranian-born Jewish mother, who texts him 20 times a day.

DEFENSIVE: “Feminism has led to today’s hookup culture, because women are more independent and pursuing their desires … both parties being more sexually active. It most certainly is not because of Tinder. If society just wants to ‘hook up’, who am I to judge?” At READY FOR MEDIA, we encourage clients to brand the company name positively. However, when the topic is negative, the interviewee should offer a generic term. Mr. Rad should have referred to online or app dating, rather than branding Tinder negatively.

And Tinder is now launching an education and workplace add-on that will helps users identify their intellectual equals. It’s part of a wider push by Tinder to give more relevant information about someone than a selfie of face or body parts before the decision to swipe left or right.

ARGUMENTATIVE: Earlier this year, Vanity Fair published a story heralding the “dawn of the dating apocalypse” in an article that interviewed twenty somethings in New York who used hookup apps solely for casual sex. In response, Tinder went on a more than 30-part Tweetstorm lambasting the magazine for the feature story. To call this an overreaction is an understatement. The roundly-criticized Tweetstorm represented a complete misunderstanding of how to effectively use social media and what Tinder users say they want: a means of meeting others with whom to date and hook up, not a political revolution.

But Mr. Rad did say one thing that would make a media coach proud.  “Look at what’s happening in society. We’re living in a technical age, it’s creating transparency and equality and connecting us. Tinder isn’t redefining romance. Progress is.”






A Condescending Exit

The Negative Inference. That’s what Oscar-winning actor Robert DeNiro objected to in a recent interview, promoting his new comedy, The Intern.

With repeated negative inferences to Mr. De Niro, the interviewer exacerbated the tension, hoping to get more of a response than the actor’s trademark monosyllabic replies. And she did!


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It’s a technique reporters and interviewers often use to bait or get a rise out of a subject. Mr. DeNiro didn’t take the bait, he just walked out.

But not every interview subject is the septuagenarian Oscar-winning actor, Robert DeNiro who doesn’t need The Radio Times’ for publicity. So learning how to handle this media technique is crucial.

Simply, deflect the negative (without repeating it) and bridge to the positive.

When Mr. De Niro characterized the reporter’s questions as negative inference, she replied, “Wait, but I asked that question to establish how it is you manage not to be on autopilot.”
“I’m not doing this, darling,” Mr. De Niro concluded. In response, Radio Times’ journalist, Emma Brockes pouted, “I think you’re very condescending.”