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.

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.

AndersonCooperBlogPicture

Photo Courtesy www.bluemassgroup.com

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!