Loose Lips Sink Ships

Commanded former 4-star Marine Corps general and new White House Chief of Staff, John Kelly in the immediate firing of Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. With brash, trash-talking vulgarities in a phone interview with The New Yorker Magazine, the Mooch, as Mr. Scaramucci likes to call himself, accused the White House staff of leaks to the press and threatened to fire the entire communications staff.

Photo Courtesy of www.CNN.com

While Mr. Kelly’s concerns were reportedly the decisive factors in Mr. Scaramucci’s departure, it was reported by Mike Allen, the co-founder of the Web site Axios that, “initially, we’re told, the President loved the Mooch quotes.” But Mr. Trump’s family helped him quickly sour on his newly-appointed bombastic, Long Island-bred former hedge fund manager.

Recruited as Mr. Trump’s tough-talking alter ego to ferociously fight for the President in a way others had not, Mr. Scaramucci went too far even in the eyes of a President who delights in pushing the boundaries of political and social decorum, the New York Times noted.

Sporting a blinding ambition that triggered his current divorce proceedings, the 52-year-old Wall Street financier had been “hell-bent” on claiming his position at the White House after he was originally pegged for a senior role and, in preparation, sold his Sky Bridge Capital investment firm.

Blocked by Reince Priebus, Mr. Trump’s then Chief of Staff whom Mr. Scaramucci characterized in the tirade as a #$%$)*&6 “paranoid schizophrenic,” and Stephen K. Bannon, the Chief White House Strategist before an aggressive campaign, Mr. Scaramucci was made the Director of Communications in mid July, triggering then Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s resignation.

The New Yorker weighed in with: “Originally endorsed by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Mr. Scaramucci seems to have been installed to carry out Donald Trump’s management style in his personal language of obscenity and contempt to help demean and get rid of retainers who have proved disappointing or threatening to his interests.”

In addition, Mr. Scaramucci seemed to be, at least for the moment, overshadowing the President — a fact that Breitbart News, which Mr. Bannon once directed, pointed out in a headline describing Mr. Trump as second fiddle to his Communications Director.

The moral:

Mr. Scaramucci has not learned from his idol and role model, President Trump, that to threaten the media, in this case to reveal a source, and abuse his power, only heightens the scrutiny and enhances the focus of intrepid journalists.

The morning after his midnight confession, Mr. Scaramucci tweeted: “I made a mistake in ‘trusting’ a reporter. It won’t happen again.” General Kelly made certain that it won’t.

 

 

 

 

 

Publicity Pitfalls

In today’s media climate, celebrity endorsements can be a slippery slope. Sloppy social media posts are one thing, but how do brands react when the public figures they sponsor receive bad publicity? Olympic Gold Medalist Ryan Lochte made international waves surrounding the scandal of the 2016 Rio Olympics, in which he accused Brazilian police of robbing him and two fellow swimmers at gunpoint. The allegations proved false, leaving Mr. Lochte in hot water with his sponsors!

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

Photo Courtesy www.eurweb.com

But the choice to abandon an athlete is not as simple as it sounds. Internet analysis conducted by marketing technology company Amobee showed that social commentary on the incident was generally neutral and sometimes positive.

Depending on the misdemeanor, it can actually benefit a brand to maintain their sponsorship and support. Earlier this year, tennis player Maria Sharapova received a two-year suspension after failing a drug test, but major sponsors Nike, Head and Evian applauded her as a “role model and woman of integrity” after her public apology–and social media largely agreed.

Gold medal companies Speedo and Ralph Lauren quickly dropped their sponsorships of Mr. Lochte amounting to $1 million. Speedo made the statement: “We cannot condone behaviour that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for.” But such brands must be careful, too, when making statements about actions “counter to the values” for which they stand. Speedo was also accused of “technological doping” with their performance-enhancing LZR Racer suits, banned from the Olympics in 2010.

Renowned swimming teammate Michael Phelps has shown support for Mr. Lochte, long after he was dropped from sponsorships himself amidst public scrutiny–most notably in 2009 from Kellogg’s for a controversial photo in which he was shown smoking marijuana. Mr. Phelps has since recovered his image and made his scandal a thing of the past.

Whether it benefitted Speedo and Ralph Lauren to leave Mr. Lochte or not, he seems to be moving forward as other brands are diving in. Most recently, he has teamed up with Robocopp, a company that produces personal alarms, and this is a commercial you’ll have to see to believe:

Video Courtesy News Views 88,70,423

Even Mr. Lochte must recognize how unbelievable the irony is.

Remembering what’s important

With decades of experience in coaching, we understand the importance of encouragement in the face of struggle and frustration. A touching moment between a coach and a player at the Little League World Series was caught on live television, warming hearts across the country. The coach also happened to be the player’s father.

It was the first game in the series for Pitcher Isaiah “Bugsy” Jensen, who had not pitched much in the Northwest Regional either, but he’d had quite a game on the biggest stage for Little Leaguers. Bugsy pitched four innings with six strikeouts and only two singles. Then, he began to lose control in the fifth as wild pitches walked a hitter from the opposing team: Italy. Joel Jensen, coach for Bend North in Oregon, gave son and pitcher a pep talk that brought him the courage to strike out his next and final hitter. And eventually, his team won the game.

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

Photo Courtesy www.sportsgrid.com

I just came out to tell you … I love you, as a dad and a player, okay? You’re doing awesome out here. One more hitter and I’m going to bring in _____ (alternate pitcher). This is your last hitter, okay? You understand? Come right after him… Hey, cheer up, have some fun, come right after him. Okay? Let’s go!

It was a moment not only seen and heard by the crowd of 7,000 at the series, but also by national audiences of ESPN and ABC News. The video serves as a reminder to dads and coaches everywhere: support and validate your children, players, and students. They need it most when they lose faith in themselves–that message may be the push they need to end on a high note.

Unfortunately, ESPN might be seen as Red-Faced after commercializing the touching moment with corporate sponsorship from Kellogg’s. They branded the video as a “Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes Let Your Grrrrreat-Out Moment.”

Our disclaimer: No Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes contributed in the making of this moment.

Out of the mouth of babes

Media theorist Marshall McLuhan once said, “The medium is the message,” which could not be more true in today’s modern age. The internet and social media have given voice to so many who would be otherwise unheard. Perhaps the most fascinating voices are those that have a better grasp of the new media than its predecessors — those under the age of 18. Watch this impassioned video of 16-year-old environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez.

Video Courtesy Earth Guardians

Youth speaking out on societal issues is not a new phenomenon, Severn Cullis-Suzuki gave a similarly fervent speech at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. But only with the recent advent of social media have their shots been heard around the world.

Perhaps driven by an innocent naiveté, or perhaps by the honest, blunt nature of youth, but the youngest generation is not afraid to speak on controversial topics and to ask the questions many adults would not. Eleven-year-old Matthew Schricker did so recently when he questioned Mike Pence’s “softening” role in Donald Trump’s campaign:

Video Courtesy MiNews

When surrounded by media mistakes and poorly worded soundbites, it is comforting to hear such candidness, wit and substance from the future leaders of America.

In Other Words

There were a lot of firsts at the 2016 Republican National Convention, but Melania Trump’s speech was not one of them. Mrs. Trump’s apparent plagiarism of First Lady Michelle Obama’s speech from the 2008 Democratic National Convention created quite a stir from the public, the media, and the Trump campaign. And the Republicans’ attempts to explain it away challenged the Party’s credibility. The question that remains is not who wrote the speech (though Mrs. Trump claimed in an NBC interview that she did, “with as little help as possible”), but who approved it?

Video Courtesy CNN

Former Trump Campaign Manager Corey Lewandowski, fired in June, is calling for accountability. He says that if current Campaign Manager Paul Manafort approved the speech “he would do the right thing and resign.” Mr. Manafort and Sean Spicer, the Republican National Committee Communications Chief, are primarily denying the speech as plagiarism by asserting her use of “common words and phrases,” even going so far as to draw similarities with quotes from singers John Legend and Akon and the children’s television show, My Little Pony.

But the camera doesn’t lie, nor does it blink. The fact remains that Mrs. Trump was caught using about 60 words in the same phrasing or syntax as the speech Mrs. Obama gave, suggesting that Mrs. Trump probably had more help than she admitted.

With over 30 years experience in helping clients create speeches with authenticity, we know how difficult it is to communicate universal values for those inexperienced in public speaking. That is why speech writing and plagiarism-checking in the White House are such meticulous processes. When in the public eye and without proper guidance, mistakes happen.

After two days of continual finger-pointing within the Republican party, a family friend and writer for the Trump Corporation, Meredith McIver, stepped forward and took responsibility for the mistake. This has created further problems for the campaign because only campaign employees can legally contribute goods and services. A speech was prepared by Republican speechwriters beforehand, but Mrs. Trump rejected this and sought help from Ms. McIver instead.

Our Los Angeles-based media training firm also coaches in crisis management. When a media disaster occurs, it is important for the organization to step back from the spotlight and formulate a credible, unified message. Many components to speech-giving apply: considering context, the audience and why its important to them. And perhaps referencing sources a bit more sophisticated than My Little Pony … but brownie points for originality!

Sloppy spokespeople

There’s a trend among the most recent spokespeople to simply copy, paste and post their sponsors’ social media directions.  In the past two months, Scott Disick of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, model Naomi Campbell, and Real Housewife Ramona Singer were all caught carelessly posting messages from their sponsors instead of their own endorsements. And all three have been victims of online ridicule from their own Instagram inattention.

Mr. Disick (see photo) who is no stranger to mockery as a consequence of the show that made him famous, was met with Tweets like “You know you failed at life when you can’t even copy x paste. @ScottDisick” from @AMstudiio and “Stop making stupid people famous! Scott Disick cut/pasted an email from a marketing team onto his Instagram caption from @loudspike.

scott disick

Photo Courtesy www.usmagazine.com

These sponsored posts typically earn the celebrity thousands of dollars, yet it seems that this is not enough to buy their effort and conscientiousness. At the end of the day, it is the celebrities themselves who lose credibility and are embarrassed by the public reaction, forcing them to correct the post–but not before it is screenshot and pasted all over Twitter.

Though it probably is no great loss to reputable companies like Adidas, they might think twice before continuing endorsement contracts with Ms. Campbell after she captioned her Instagram post,

“Naomi,

So nice to see you in good spirits!!! Could you put something like:

Thanks to my friend @gary.aspden and all at adidas – loving these adidas 350 SPZL from the adidas Spezial range. @adidasoriginals.”

Ms. Singer’s post for Rodan + Fields addressed her in the third person as she was advised:

“Here is the draft with some language for the post – if we could have Ramona add something personal in about why she feels confident going makeup free that would be great. Happy to make any changes you’d like. The link to R+F is linked to her personal page on their site and the Instagram is linked to her acct as well.’

In our Los Angeles media coaching, READY FOR MEDIA advises spokespeople to carefully review and prepare their messages for the most credible representation of themselves and their sponsors. The realm of social media is increasingly being utilized for endorsements to connect celebrities with a sponsors, products and their audiences. Because of the permanent nature of internet content (whether the original is deleted or not), these posts need to be prepared with as much diligence as live soundbites.

Only time will tell if these celebrities and their marketing teams will be asked to continue these sponsored endorsements, but hopefully it only takes once to learn this lesson. One would think that when the caption is already written word-for-word that the job of the poster is simple enough.

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.

 

Photo courtesy of www.concordmonitor.com

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.

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.

A+ for Characteristic Candor

Personalizing a presentation with candor is one of the C’s of good communication. Other C’s include: Conversational, Convincing and Compassionate which help to create a speaker’s Charisma.  As Bloomberg News reported on a recent Chicago conference for the National Investment Center for Seniors Housing and Care, Ben Bernanke was refreshingly and characteristically candid:

“I recently tried to refinance my mortgage and was unsuccessful in doing so.

I’m not making that up.”

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of LA Times)

Former Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke (courtesy of the LA Times)

If the two-term, former Chairman of the US Federal Reserve can’t refinance his home, who can?

In the aftermath of the 2000’s housing bubble burst, lending institutions have become extremely cautious and, according to Mr. Bernanke, much too limiting on their lending standards.

” Tactful candor and simple honesty is very refreshing in today’s world of bluffing and hype,” our CEO Anne Ready writes in her latest book from Career Press, Off the Cuff/What to Say at a Moment’s Notice. But she cautions not waiting until you arrive and step to the podium or are asked a question, to decide what you can reveal.

“Ahead of time, explore with yourself and your company, what you/they are willing to share.

If you can’t give your audience or interviewers everything, which in most cases you shouldn’t,

know what you can give them to make a story or anecdote colorful,

interesting and worth listening to or writing about.”

No matter what your experience or level of presentation skills, use Candor and the C’s of Communication to deliver your message effectively… as evidenced by Mr. Bernanke’s candid constitution.

Sensitivity Training

When a British retailer featured a greeting card with, “don’t get mad, take lithium” (an obvious reference to the medication for bipolar disorder,) customers didn’t just get mad — they got even, with posts such as “I will no longer be shopping with you” on the company’s Facebook page.

The stage was set when another offended customer (@poeticfeminist) tweeted, “do you realise that this card is very offensive to people with bipolar disorder?” Rather than immediately neutralizing the situation with a sincere, social media apology, JOY (@joythestore) tweeted the response: “Then if you know anyone with bipolar disorder, don’t buy it (the card) for them. PROBLEM SOLVED.”

 

Twitter / mirror.co.uk

Twitter / mirror.co.uk

 

From her/his response, it was obvious that JOY’s Twitter representative lacked proper media training. It would have given this individual the skill set to empathize with the customer’s frustration from the start, as opposed to fueling the conflict with a defensive statement. After JOY’s initial response, @poeticfeminist then inquired about individuals with bipolar disorder who may come across this card in the store. JOY @joythestore again showed insensitivity and a blatant disregard for loyal customer concerns, mocking those who suffer mental illness with another sarcastic tweet: “They’ll like it one minute and hate it the next!”

Even in the smallest of social media crises, the principles remain the same. The steps below are crucial in practicing effective communication skills:

1. Acknowledge compassion (JOY appreciates the the World Health Organization’s findings that, “Bipolar disorder is the sixth leading cause of disability in the world.”)

2. Give bottom-line soundbite (“We at JOY like to start conversations and create dialogue, we try to be irreverent, but sometimes we get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”) – which @thejoystore finally did, some 20 hours later!

3. Offer appropriate history (perhaps the card was written by a bipolar disorder sufferer who finds humor the best way to deal with his/her illness)

4. Repeat soundbite (“Although we at JOY like to start conversations with irreverent dialogue, we sometimes get it wrong. Please accept  our apologies.”)

5. Suggest the next steps (i.e. “The card will be removed from JOY stores, and a contribution will be made to the National Charity for Bipolar Disorder in the UK.”)

Though the company describes itself as “quietly eccentric,” JOY’s tweets came off as inappropriate and insulting. As a result, JOY has now lost some of its most faithful customers. What began as a simple concern soon escalated into an offensive assail and loss of profit—a situation that could have been altogether avoided with proper communication skills. In today’s online world, the potential to offend a consumer is just a post, click or keystroke away.

Before you tweet, remember that sensitivity is key!