Not what you say, but how you say it!

“It’s often not what you say, but how you say it.” Look for yourself. The words in this PSA were reflective and respectful, but Johnny Depp’s and actress wife, Amber Heard’s deadpan delivery was not. In it, they used the medium to show true disdain for Australians and their laws.

Video Courtesy The Australian Government Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

The  “apology” video is part of a plea bargain after charges for illegally importing their Yorkshire terriers into Australia in April 2015. In it, the couple are acting more like hostages or prisoners of war  than offering a genuine apology on the issue of  biosecurity. The script was thoughtful and well-written, but overshadowed by the stiff and insincere tone of the couple.

“Australia is a wonderful island, with a treasure trove of unique plants, animals and people. It has to be protected. Australia is free of many pests and diseases that are commonplace around the world. That is why Australia has to have such strong biosecurity laws.  Australians are just as unique, both warm and direct. When you disrespect Australian law, they will tell you firmly. I am truly sorry that Pistol and Boo were not declared. Protecting Australia is important. Declare everything when you enter Australia.”

But at the Venice Film Festival last September, Mr. Depp quipped: “I killed my dogs and ate them under direct orders from some kind of, I don’t know, sweaty, big-gutted man from Australia,” presumably in reference to Australian Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. The following week on Jimmy Kimmel, he threatened an “assault” on Mr. Joyce  if the Australian government tried to jail his wife.

After threats of dog euthanasia and 10 years jail time, Ms. Heard, an up-and-coming actress with recent roles in Magic Mike XXL and The Danish Girl, was sentenced to a one-month good behavior bond and a fine of $767.

Mr. Joyce mocked the video, remarking that it should be remade with “a little gusto,” but he is happy with the viral status it has attained.

At the end of it, we’ve got a message that is going all around the world right now. It’s going off like a frog in a sock (which Wikipedia defines as being excellent) telling people that if you come into this nation and you don’t obey our laws, you’re in trouble. That’s what this is about.”

He believes, however, that Mr. Depp will “not get an Academy Award for his performance.

Gracious diplomacy wins the day

There’s a lesson to be learned from Canada’s recent elections for a new prime minister.

Before his landslide win, Justin Trudeau graciously withstood the attack of the country’s conservative prime minister who portrayed him as “inexperienced. ” In his acceptance speech, Mr. Trudeau referred to his conservative colleagues across the aisle not as enemies but as neighbors and thanked the outgoing prime minister for a decade of service to the country,  offering praise for his devotion to Canada.

And the outgoing prime minister was also gracious in defeat.

“The people are never wrong. The disappointment is my responsibility and mine alone.”

Photo Courtesy

Photo Courtesy

Hopefully, America’s presidential candidates will take lessons from our neighbors to the North, who accepted both winning and losing with equally gracious diplomacy.

Author  Albert Payson Terhune put it this way:

“Win without boasting. Lose without excuse.”

Despite his legacy as the son of Canada’s beloved Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau from 1968 to 1979 and again from 1980 to 1984, Mr. Trudeau’s humble character and heartwarming humor have made him a crowd favorite—not only as a politician but as a human being.

He greeted Syrian refugees arriving in Canada with, “Welcome to your new home.”

When asked about his take on political division in the U.S. and the infamous border wall, Mr. Trudeau laughed,

“Every election…there are people who swear that if the candidate they don’t like gets elected, they’re moving to Canada! If that were the case, we’d have more people in Canada than the United States right now, instead of being one-tenth your size.”

“Fear is easy. Friendship? That takes work.” he continued. “But Canada and the United States have proven, time and time again, that finding common ground is worth the effort.

“I have tremendous confidence in the American people and look forward to working with whomever they choose to send to this White House later this year,” Mr. Trudeau concluded.

Thank you for this moment

Early in life, we are told that fighting fire with fire will only make matters worse. But the fire of gratitude, diplomacy and goodness will squelch the fire of crudeness and rudeness, every time. Singer-songwriter Taylor Swift proved this useful lesson when she eloquently delivered her acceptance speech at the 2016 Grammy Awards.

Photo Courtesy

Photo Courtesy

While the memory of Kanye West’s interruption of Ms. Swift’s acceptance speech in 2009 at the Video Music Awards still burned, he recently added fuel to his fire by releasing a song that indecently referenced his role in her success.

Despite the public’s anticipation over how Ms. Swift would react on stage to Mr. West’s inappropriate remarks, she handled it with class and confidence. By replacing the role of victim with role model, she took her power back and delivered a message to her audience of young women and girls.

  “As the first woman to win Album of the Year at the Grammys twice, I want to say to all the young women out there: There are going to be people along the way who will try to undercut your success or take credit for your accomplishments or your fame,” Swift said while she accepted the award for her album “1989”. “But if you just focus on the work and you don’t let those people sidetrack you, someday when you get where you’re going, you’ll look around and you will know that it was you and the people who love you who put you there. And that will be the greatest feeling in the world. Thank you for this moment.”

Taylor Swift may be best known as a famous pop star, but she is also a savvy business woman. She creatively called on the loyalty of her fan base while garnering respect from a much larger audience.

Inc Magazine noted that she knows exactly how to protect her brand and her image. The lessons they took from Ms. Swift included:

  • Change the conversation
  • Keep the message about your brand or goals
  • Bring focus to a higher cause

In this case, Ms. Swift’s fire was classy, clever and confident.


Twitter: The 140-Character Soundbite

Social media has become every publicist’s nightmare. Rather than carefully formulating and crafting media responses through interviews, phone calls and media training, it is now possible for a moment of lapsed judgment to spiral into a media faux pas. Actor Alec Baldwin is the most recent example of this growing trend with a tweet from his car in New York City traffic.

Last week, a protest for a $15 minimum wage converged in Manhattan, slowing traffic to a crawl. The protest included thousands of single mothers, fast-food employees, home health care aides and others hoping to raise New York’s minimum wage to battle the city’s increasing cost of living.

While driving through New York City, Mr. Baldwin encountered a patch of traffic directly caused by the protester’s disruptions. In response, he tweeted, “Life in NY is hard enough as is. The goal is to not make it more so. How does clogging rush hour traffic from 59th St to 42 do any good?”

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Instantly, many turned on the actor for insensitivity regarding an important issue. “Life in NY is hard,” wrote Rachael L. Swarns in the New York TIMES, “not because of driving in traffic,” but “because of struggling to pay the rent for even a single room,” or, “relying on Medicaid and food stamps to help support 3 children!” She went on to condemn the actor in her article with, “when protesters crossed the Selma bridge, no one asked how the traffic was disrupted.”

“Remind yourself that if traffic is your biggest problem … you’re probably fine.”

This is yet another instance in which Mr. Baldwin has gotten in trouble with social media. He originally deleted his Twitter account last summer after a tirade on Twitter lashing out at a journalist.
With the speed and ease in which Twitter and Facebook publish information, it is important to take a breath and think about what soundbite you are authoring.

When it’s Wrong to be Right

The best intentions can still backfire in the media game.

In an attempt to address the issue of race relations, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz faced an immediate and intense social media backlash to his  “Race Together” campaign. “Our objective from the very start — dating back to our first open forum in Seattle last December — was to stimulate conversation, empathy and compassion toward one another,” he defended. And then to broaden that dialogue beyond our Starbucks family and the public .”

Mr. Schultz’s approach was that the message of #RaceTogether was to be handwritten by the barrista onto each customers’ coffee cup  in order to begin a dialogue between Starbucks employees and customers about the issue of race.

Photo Courtesy of

Photo Courtesy of

While a dialogue into issues as current and complex as race may be a good idea, there is a time and place for everything. Many customers criticized the location of a coffee line as not an appropriate time or place for such a conversation. Others on social media sites like Twitter called into question the legitimacy of the campaign pointing out that most of the top executives of Starbucks are white males. Numerous Starbucks employees have since stepped forward claiming they did not receive any training or coaching on how to approach this controversial subject. Communications skills and presentation training are crucial before launching any campaign and many employees felt unprepared to discuss such an important topic.

Still others, like NPR’s Karen Grisby Bates fell somewhere in the middle saying, “Some people think it’s just a naked marketing ploy, kind of a catalyst for free advertising. Other people think it was well intentioned, but really poorly executed.”

Whether it is a marketing attempt or a genuine concern, both intention and execution are important in corporate branding.

One week after the start of the campaign, Mr. Schultz sent out a memo ending the practice of writing the message on customer’s cups. Good intentions can have unintended consequences, and managing the backlash is as important as managing the message.

Hot Under the Collar

In this election year, should Governor Rick Scott have electrified his voter base with a seven-minute stand on a non-issue? And why?

Before an October debate in Fort Lauderdale, incumbent Florida Governor Scott created a media disaster by delaying his appearance for seven minutes due to a cooling fan placed beneath the podium of his opponent, former Republican turned-Democrat gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.  According to CNN, Mr. Scott’s issue was that Mr. Crist’s cooling fan violated the debate rules against any electronics on stage. Within minutes of Governor Scott’s delayed appearance, Facebook and Twitter users were ridiculing Mr. Scott’s performance as a “#Fangate.”

Governor Rick Scott (courtesy of

Governor Rick Scott (courtesy of

As a public speaker, imagine yourself in the court of public opinion. Anything you say or do can be used against you.

In any war, it’s wise to pick your battles. Standing on principle for 7 minutes because of his opponent’s use of a fan at his feet, the governor seemed small-minded and petty.  Better for Mr. Scott to have used the situation to his advantage: “Unlike my opponent, I don’t need a fan to keep my cool in governing the great state of Florida.”

After finally renouncing his war on cooling devices, Governor Scott took the stage and was immediately asked, “Why the delay in coming out over a fan?”Apparently seven minutes wasn’t enough time to cool Governor Scott’s nerves. In what was described as nothing short of a nationally televised panic attack, his speech came out in fragmented sentences and jumbled words. The moral is: Stay focused on your message and deliver it with confidence. Those who have had proper media coaching know just how important it is to prevent small distractions from ruining the presentation, for both the audience and themselves .

"The Fearsome Fan" #Fangate (courtesy of CBS)

“The Fearsome Fan” #Fangate (courtesy of CBS)

At READY FOR MEDIA, we provide presentation skills training, backed by over 30 years of experience. As featured in CEO Anne Ready’s book Off the Cuff/What to Say at a Moment’s Notice, the C’s of Communication are a crucial part of successful presentation:

  1. Cogent: Defined by Webster as “forceful and to the point; compelling, and persuasive”—Instead of panicking, take a breath before you speak. Then, knowing what opinion you want changed or action you want taken, simply go for it!
  2. Convincing: Show respect for your audience with a logical presentation. Does it come to a reasonable conclusion? The most compelling speech is one that makes sense.
  3. Charistmatic: A special quality of leadership that captures the imagination and inspires trust.

Our Ready advice: In our modern age of multi-faceted media, nothing goes unnoticed. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other social sites have become new mediums for communicating information faster than ever before. Those in the public eye are now being watched more closely, which gives Credibility to the need for the best media and presentation training possible.

Although losing this battle, Mr. Scott won the war on November 4 by the narrowest of margins, 48 to 47% to retain his governorship of Florida. Hopefully, he will stand and deliver more Confidently next time.