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.

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

Photo Courtesy www.adweek.com

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!”

 

 

Republicans as Terrorists?

With the ninety-fifth anniversary of women gaining the right to vote, Hillary Clinton addressed the subject of women’s equality, by comparing her Republican opponents to terrorists.

Ms. Clinton said, “Now, extreme views about women, we expect that from some of the terrorist groups, we expect that from people who don’t want to live in the modern world, but it’s a little hard to take from Republicans who want to be the president of the United States. Yet they espouse out of date, out of touch policies. They are dead wrong for 21st century America. We are going forward, we are not going back.”

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

Photo courtesy of bgr.com

 

With such loaded language, Ms. Clinton diverted attention away from her views and onto her opponents. Jeb Bush later responded on Twitter by posting, “@HillaryClinton compares pro-life Americans to terrorists, but defends despicable Planned Parenthood treatment of unborn? Her priorities are totally wrong.”

While Ms. Clinton’s end goal of featuring herself as a progressive woman candidate for president was obvious, her execution was erroneous.  She could have focused on women’s rights without taking such a harsh and distracting jab at Republicans, which became the outrageous headline.

In both presentation skills and media training at READY FOR MEDIA, we advise clients to avoid loaded and negative words which can distract an audience and detract from your message.

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.”