The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

It’s often said that the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. But until recently, the camera has always been in the hands of responsible and professional photographers, videographers and journalists. Not in the hands of passengers documenting airline brutality or murderers recording their own deeds as selfies.

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Now everyone with a cell phone, and that’s pretty much everyone, is a documentarian, taking cameras and matters into his or her own hands. And thanks to social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, Snapchat, et al, there is no shortage of airtime.

Traditional print media like the New York TIMES, which narrowcasts to only those who choose to pay for it, advertises its policy of “all the news that’s fit to print.” But these social media publishers have yet to restrict the freedom of their presses.

According to Wikipedia, Clint Eastwood’s The Good, the Bad and the Ugly was one of the greatest and most influential Westerns of all time. But today’s citizens offer cowboy justice at its best and worst because there are no filters on these cameras.

In our Los Angeles media training and social media training world, this is the phenomena of loose cannons. Executives  must be Ready for them. It cannot be the “shoot from the hip” approach taken by United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz recently. There must be a sensible crisis plan, designed, prepared and practiced in advance.

Crisis training would have explored whether it is the best policy to boot paying customers to make way for employees.  Then, not defend employees’ actions in the face of excessive force without being aware of the details: a passenger being beaten seriously enough to cause a concussion, two broken teeth and a broken nose.

Then, after a deluge of negative traditional and social media not abjectly apologize saying Dr. David Dao “did nothing wrong.” A more appropriate response would have been, Dr. Dao was badly mistreated. But for the safety of all the passengers on my airline, everyone needs to follow the orders given by my people, even if you think those orders are stupid or unfair. And for that, I will not defend his actions either.

The cost to United Airlines in dollars and reputation is impossible to estimate. Each passenger on that flight is now being reimbursed for the price of his or her ticket, which may set a precedent that other companies will be forced to follow every time someone pictures and posts a misdeed. Finally, the passenger who was documented being dragged bloodied and broken down the aisle by countless cell phones is very likely to sue and is from Asia, an important market for the company.

The lesson, of course, is to get in front of a crisis, but to do it correctly. As the victimized doctor’s code would suggest, “First, do no harm.” And not respond impulsively without planning or design.

The world wide web offers the broadest of broadcasting possibilities to everyone who holds a cell phone. And that’s pretty much everyone.


Down but not Out

Outnumbered but not outclassed, House Democrats fought for the right to be heard on gun control. A veteran civil rights activist, Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) was the spokesperson for the 170 lawmakers who staged a 26-hour sit-in on the House floor before the 4th of July adjournment. He also tweeted this soundbite,

“We got in trouble. We got in the way. Good trouble. Necessary Trouble. By sitting-in, we were really standing up.”

Photo Courtesy

Photo Courtesy

According to Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-SC),
“We are going back to our Congressional districts — we are going to engage our constituents on this subject, and we will not allow this body (Congress) to feel as comfortable as in the past. On July 5, we will return, and at that time we will be operating on a new sense of purpose.”

The sit-in became a social media happening after Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-WI) banned cameras by labeling the sit-in as nothing more than a “publicity stunt.” Tweets sent by Congressman Scott Peters (D-CA) and periscope broadcasts by Congressman Eric Swalwell (D-CA) were viewed on C-SPAN over 1 million times and the hashtags #NoBillNoBreak and #HoldTheFloor were tweeted over 1.4 million times, according to Twitter. The Republican’s response #StopTheStunt was tweeted about half as much.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), a prominent gun control advocate following the Sandy Hook grade school massacre in 2012 and who led a nearly 15-hour filibuster in the Senate last week asking lawmakers to vote on gun reform, walked over and joined the sit-in. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), llinois Senator Dick Durbin (D) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined the group, as well.

Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina acknowledged,

“Eventually we’ll find a compromise, because the need is too real.”

Democrats answered by breaking into a rendition of “We Shall Overcome,” changing the lines to “We shall pass a bill, someday.”

Controversy is one of the C’s of Communication we preach to clients at READY FOR MEDIA, along with clarity, candor and confidence. A sit-in is a peaceful yet powerful way to outcry societal issues. With the help of social media and this traditional form of protest, the Democrats gained public awareness on the importance of gun control and what needs to be done to bring about change.

Sometimes, you have to make your own news!

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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Photo Courtesy

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!”



Don’t Shoot the Messenger

Taking artistic license with Marshall McLuhan’s edict: the medium is the message, consider that the media is the messenger. Media coverage is designed to convey a subject’s agenda, thoughts and opinions. Donald Trump was unaware of how to use the media to his advantage when he took broadcast journalist Anderson Cooper to task after his questioning of Hilary Clinton during a recent Democratic Presidential debate.


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He accused Mr. Cooper  of giving “all softballs” and not one tough question to Hilary Clinton. Mr. Cooper seemed baffled and defended himself by saying that the panel asked her not one tough question, but many:

  • Being inconsistent  on issues for political expediency
  • Representing the middle class from her perspective in the 1%
  • Underestimating the Russians

Instead of concentrating on promoting his own campaign, Mr. Trump wasted time and opportunity berating Mr. Cooper’s questions while creating potential alienation with a distinguished journalist. Further, the candidate focused on a competing presidential candidate, by name and on a debate in which Mr. Trump was not even involved. This off-topic dispute sabotaged Mr. Trump’s own campaign progress.

The interviewee’s job is not simply to answer questions or, as in Mr. Trump’s case to criticize the media for the questions asked, but to advance his or her agenda. This is the basis for our Los Angeles media training, as we coach clients not to merely answer; ignore (as most politicians do) or demean (as Mr. Trump did) the questions but address the question with a Ready answer. An excellent answer prompts the next question and the next. And the interview is following the interviewee’s direction.

Every interaction with the media is an opportunity to advance your agenda, by using the media as it is intended: the means not the end. There’s no win, but simply a lose-lose proposition if you shoot the messenger!

A Winner in our Hearts

One of the youngest professional golfers at this summer’s British Open,  22-year-old Jordan Spieth, ended his chances of winning all four major titles in a single year by finishing one stroke behind Zach Johnson. However, with a handshake and a hug, Mr. Spieth was the first to walk over and congratulate Mr. Johnson on his win.


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Fans across the globe cheered his gesture.  All in all, he stated that he was happy for his role model and friend, Zach Johnson, to win the title. Viewers immediately took to social media complimenting Mr. Spieth’s grace, and stating that he is a champion … ” a truly stand-up guy.”

“We gave it a great effort. Ideally, par-birdie is a perfect way to finish out here, and that would have gotten the job done, so it stings a little bit. Ultimately, I thought we gave it a pretty good run.”

Good sportsmanship always plays a part in winning the media game. If Mr. Spieth had shown anger at himself or a lousy attitude toward his opponent,  he would not have received the high praise that he did.

In media training at READY FOR MEDIA in Los Angeles. we coach our clients that Courtesy is one of the C’s of Communication, along with Candor. And Mr. Spieth showed another of our C’s of Communication, as well. Class.

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

Photo courtesy of


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.”

Having to Say You’re Sorry

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In the past year, Lululemon has been under fire not only for the “sheerness” of its yoga pants, but also for the explanations of the brand’s founder, Chip Wilson. “Yoga pants become see-through when women buy sizes that are too small for them.”

Backlash from women all across North America registered shock that a company who promotes “quality is at the heart of everything we do” blamed customers instead of stating that there was an issue with the fabric.

What happened to  … “the customer is always right.”

In March 2013, the company was forced to pull nearly 17 percent of its popular black yoga pants from stores. The pants have since been put back on shelves, but Lululemon faced a new barrage of customer complaints, this time involving the pilling of the fabric. Mr. Wilson claimed that when his $100 pants wear out, “it’s women’s fault. It happens when their thighs rub together.”

Mr. Wilson later released a video stating his sincerest of apologies to his company …

“I’m sad for the repercussions of my actions, I’m sad for the people of Lululemon who I care so much about that have really had to face the brunt of my actions. I take responsibility for all that has occurred, and the impact it has had on you.”

He does not seem sad for the customers he insulted, instead he tells them how to react:

“For all of you who have made Lululemon what it is today, I ask you to stay in a conversation that is above the fray. I ask you to prove that the culture that you have built can’t be chipped away.”

They didn’t stay above the fray. There have been multiple class action lawsuits against Lululemon, most from customers of the brand.

And customers weren’t the only audiences offended. Shares of Lululemon stock plummeted from 11-15% over the last year. The stockholders also sued.

Mr. Wilson has since relinquished his seat as CEO of the company he founded to a hopefully more consumer-savvy executive, Laurent Potdevin, former President of shoe company, TOMS.

Moral: Every CEO needs media training!

And the Golden Globe goes to …



“The present letter is a very long one, simply because I had no leisure to make it shorter,” wrote Blaise Pascal in 1657.

Taking the leisure time BEFORE the announcement in a “what if … I win?” kind of way, paid off at The Golden Globes hosted by Tina Fey and Amy Poehler last weekend, with winners who were well-disciplined in their concise soundbites of appreciation.

Here is a recap of some of the very pithy and eloquent thank you’s made to writers, directors, presidents, mothers and others. And a few missteps too …

“The most deft pen is a clumsy tool, but we keep trying. Thank you for letting me try all over your movie.”

                                      – Alex Ebert, Best Original Score, “All is Lost”

“He (President Mandela) refused to hate … not because he didn’t feel anger and rage, but because he thought love would do a better job.”

                                      – U2, Best Original song “Ordinary Love”

“David (O. Russell), you write such great roles for women.”

                                      – Amy Adams, Best Actress/Movie “American Hustle”

“Because of my thick accent, I’d like to thank my actors for what they think I said, instead of what I did say. Sandra (Bullock) thought I said I was going to give her herpes, instead of I’m going to give you an earpiece. True story.

                                    – Alfonso Cuaron, Best Director/Movie “Gravity”

“I have no speech, but thank you [David] Fincher for convincing me to do this!”

                                    -Robin Wright, Best Actress/TV Series-Drama “House of Cards”

“I’m a terrible public speaker. And English is the only language I speak. So we’re in trouble.”

                                    -Spike Jonze, Best Screenplay “Her”

“I am just so thrilled to be part of this evening and among such great people as you and I never win so I can’t believe I won!”

                                 – Amy Poehler. Best Actress/TV Series-Comedy “Parks & Recreation”

“(Director) Martin Scorcese puts the fabric of our culture on the screen.”

                                 – Leonardo de Caprio, Best Actor/Movie-Comedy “The Wolf of Wall Street”

“As kids, my mom wouldn’t let us watch television. She would say, “Don’t watch someone else do it, go out and do it yourself. Good advice for an actor. Thanks, Mom.”

                                – Matthew McConaughey, Best Actor/Motion Picture-Drama “Dallas Buyers Club”

“I actually did watch all the films this year — well, not all of them, but you know what I mean. So I can say to the women tonight, it’s such an honor to be nominated with you.”

                                – Jennifer Lawrence, Best Supporting Actress “American Hustle”

Oooops…and a few of the spoofs were a little too “inside” baseball … er entertainment for a broadcast event.

What was presenter Emma Thompson doing barefoot, carrying her Louboutin red-bottomed pumps and a full martini glass?


Why did Dan Goor, co-creator of the Andy Samberg-starring Fox show “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” say, “this is way better than saving a human life!’

– Best TV Series – Comedy or Musical

And …

“It’s impossible to do good work without good people. Thank you, Woody (Allen) for calling me instead of …
And thank you to the cast and crew for plying me with vodka, the way Judy Garland was probably plied with barbiturates.”

– Cate Blanchett, Best Actress/Motion Picture-Drama “Blue Jasmine”


As always, the Golden Globes proved to be a night of entertaining soundbites recognizing the strong talents of the Entertainment industry. Stay tuned to see what’s in store for the rest of the award season!