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.

Be True to Yourself

Candor is one of the C’s of Communication preached at READY FOR MEDIA, along with Credibility, Compassion and Charisma. All were at play when Ellen DeGeneres was true to herself in responding (below) to an article written by a pastor accusing the TV host of promoting a ‘Gay Agenda’ on her show and  influencing her young, female viewers to turn towards her sexual preference.

Photo courtesy of blogdailyherald.com

Photo courtesy of blogdailyherald.com

Effective communication and branding skills are crucial in disproving and putting a negative story in context with facts and reason, rather than rage or emotion. Rather than fanning the flames with a juicy argument or enraged comment, Ellen’s humor took the sting out of his mean-spirited criticism.

Ellen quickly addressed the accusation directly in both a funny, yet serious and effective way. She calmly and professionally rejected his claims and encouraged every viewer to “be true to yourself.”  Ellen employed a speech communication strategy which allowed for both sincere conversation on the topic, as well as entertaining television.

Spinning the story away from the negative accusation into a positive media message was a smart decision by the savvy TV host. It is a technique emphasized at READY FOR MEDIA where clients are encouraged to control an interview by addressing questions as topics rather than dutifully answering every question put to them.

Having to Say You’re Sorry

lululemon picture

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!