It’s Not What You Say…

Communications coaching is a two-way street, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly should be advised. What you say and How you say it.

John Kelly, White House Chief of Staff, and communications coaching

Photo Courtesy of Infowars.com

Seems Mr. Kelly coached President Trump on what to say to the grieving widow of a fallen soldier.  A 4-Star general and a father who’d lost his soldier son in Afghanistan expressed in somber words and tone, “your husband was where he wanted to be, he knew what he signed up for.” It was a far cry from the cold, dispassionate, insensitive, “joking” President Trump’s uttering of the same words: he knew what he signed up for!

To the press, Mr. Kelly attempted to explain the President’s style, “In his way, he tried to express the opinion that Sergeant Johnson was ‘a brave man, a fallen hero, doing exactly what he wanted to do when he was killed. He knew what he was getting into, what the possibilities were, because we’re at war.’ Mr. Kelly said. ‘And when he died, he was surrounded by the best men on this earth, his friends.’ That’s what the president tried to say to four families the other day.”

That might have been more comforting to Sergeant Johnson’s wife and mother.

As Los Angeles-based media coaches for over 35 years, we’ve learned that audiences consider the source of the message and listen to how it’s presented.

The ensuing criticism is a case of shooting the messenger and the coach, who failed to consider the spokesperson and his personal style.

John Kelly should make the calls.

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.

cell phone picture

Photo courtesy of: Time.com

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.

 

Mexican Standoff

Nordstrom and Ivanka Trump find themselves in a Mexican Standoff following Nordstrom’s decision to drop her fashion brand from their stores.

Mexican Standoff Blog

Photo Courtesy of: bittersweetaspects.wordpress.com

A spokeswoman for Nordstrom insisted that the company made the decision based on plummeting sales and not as a political statement following Nordstrom’s company wide pro-immigration email. “For us, the two were not connected.”

As expected, President Trump gunned-down Nordstrom in a defensive tweet. “My daughter, Ivanka, has been treated so unfairly by @Nordstrom. She is a great person – always pushing me to do the right thing.” Terrible,” he whined.

Despite Nordstrom’s explanation that this was a logical business decision, both sides remain at a stand still. Neither Ivanka Trump, the brand; nor Nordstrom, the retailer dare to make the next move and must wait until it’s made for them by their customers. Those responsible for sales!

Unfortunately, large and small companies alike, are facing boycotts and backlash from Trump supporters and non-supporters.  Some boycotted Nordstrom for selling Ivanka Trump, some for not selling Ivanka Trump.

But as the owner of one e-commerce site wrote, “for every customer I’ve lost, I’ve gained one.”

 

The Best Defense

The best defense…is a good offense. What’s a multi-national company to do when the quarterback has turned against your fans? Some companies tackled the country’s quarterback with Super Bowl ’17 commercials in an end-run.

Know your Audience photo

Photo Courtesy of: bustle.com

In the era of hashtags and social media,  Coca-Cola and Airbnb reached out to defend their international audiences in the wake of ethnic exclusion. #WeAccept was the tag line for Airbnb’s commercial featuring multicultural faces which advocated that: “The world is more beautiful, the more you accept.”

Airbnb’s co-founder, Brian Chesky, made extra points relying on hosts to volunteer their homes to stranded travelers. He announced on Twitter that the company would “provide short term housing over the next five years for 100,000 people in need.”

Coca-Cola had similar skin in the game with a commercial featuring “America the Beautiful” being sung in multiple languages calling for a fair catch from the new travel interceptions our country is enforcing. Although the commercial was revived from its original airing in 2014, the powerful play was now received with a different meaning.

In an environment of exclusion, Coca-Cola and Airbnb scored ads advocating for inclusion. Both companies’ knowledge of their international clientele was utilized to make a statement. An audible expressed that these American companies stand with the world.

Knowing your audience is a game changer in effectively conveying a powerful message. Airbnb has many clients that stay in American homes when visiting from abroad, while Coca-Cola is a touchdown all over the world.

Strategic uses of the media is beneficial to all companies. Even when you are blocked, strategy and preparation are key. Use communication strategy and media coaching to be Ready when it’s your turn to take the field.

 

 

 

 

It’s a Dog’s Life

“When I die, I want to come back as your dog,” is a compliment often paid to dog owners who spoil their dogs with a lavish lifestyle that is anything but a dog’s life. And we humans tend to have more than one dog in our lifetimes. Both reincarnation and the role that dogs play in our lives are the subjects of a recent movie, A Dog’s Purpose that has been met with surprising controversy.

Its a Dog's Life image

Photo Courtesy of: BrilliantDogTraining.com

The movie that intended to display the unique love we share with our dogs was targeted in an excerpt of a German Shepherd appearing to be forced into rushing water despite the dog’s reticence. Members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) the largest animal rights organization in the world and animal lovers alike reacted by dragging A Dog’s Purpose under rushing waters of criticism leaving the filmmakers in a fight to stay afloat. The conveniently-timed video release forced the studio to cancel the press junket and premiere prior to releasing A Dog’s Purpose in more than 3,000 locations following PETA’s urging of a boycott on social media.

In an attempt to regain the trust of the public, Dennis Quaid, the star of the film, expressed on NBC’s “Today” Show that the video was manipulated and spliced to look as if the dog was being abused. The presence of the American Humane Association during the filming of this scene was offered as defense that the dog could not have been abused. The AHA responded by saying that the video was “misleading and edited.”

Both parties, the filmmakers and protesters alike, used the media to advantage in a battle attempting to defend or destroy the film and their points of view.

Despite the activists’ attempts to drown the film and perhaps, unintended publicity,  A Dog’s Purpose was able to tread water and broke the 18.4 million dollar mark as the #2 movie in its debut weekend. Decide for yourself!

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!

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 www.esquire.com

Photo Courtesy www.esquire.com

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!

So you said …

As concise as soundbites need to be, when they condemn you they are better left unsaid. Case in point …

“All the talk swirling around lately about how Spotify is making money on the backs of artists upsets me big time,” the chief executive of the company, Daniel Ek, posted on his blog. Taylor Swift couldn’t have said it better when she pulled her entire catalog from the freemium streaming outlet.

Taylor Swift pushes Spotify out sight

Taylor Swift pushes Spotify out of sight

She did say, “I’m not willing to contribute my life’s work to an experiment that I don’t feel fairly compensates the writers, producers, artists and creators of this music,” Ms. Swift told Yahoo in an interview.

And CEO’s like Mr. Ek are not alone in making soundbite slips. U.S. presidents and hopefuls have done it for decades. President Nixon’s soundbite, “I am not a crook,” in the Watergate scandal long outlived his presidency. “Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy,” became a Democratic battle cry in Dan Quayle’s bid for the White House. And Year 2000 presidential hopeful Al Gore announced on CNN that “during my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.”

See more infamous soundbite slips in another part of our site, Media Mistakes http://www.readyformedia.com/media-mistakes/

 

 

 

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 politico.com)

Governor Rick Scott (courtesy of politico.com)

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.