Media Management With A Side Of Attitude

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 20, 2012 – 6:12 am

Sara MacIntyre is the Director of Communications for Christy Clark, British Columbia’s Premier.

Ms. MacIntyre is new in her job, but she’s far from inexperienced. Prior to joining Premier Clark’s staff last month, she served as the press secretary for Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

Last week, she attended a conference with Ms. Clark. As you’ll see from the below exchange, she didn’t exactly exercise the typical best practices for good media relations.

It’s not unusual for communications directors to try to exercise media management, and it’s somewhat common to reduce media availabilities to photo ops. We see that almost daily in the U.S. on the campaign trail and at many presidential events. 

But even by those standards, Ms. MacIntyre’s approach was counterproductive – and unprofessional – for at least four reasons:

1. She Forgot Who Her Audience Was: We teach students in our media training workshops that the reporter isn’t your audience – the audience is. Ms. MacIntyre seemed to forget who she was actually communicating with, and failed to consider how her testy interaction would play in living rooms across Canada.

2. She Had an Attitude: She looked defensive from the start, using a condescending tone, raising her eyebrows, and chewing gum. Being a communications director means you need to at least try to maintain civil relationships with the press. She could have achieved the same goal of preventing the media from asking questions of the Premier in a more graceful manner.

3. She Picked The Wrong Enemy: Politicians often gain traction by beating up on the media. But the media has to do something wrong for that strategy to work. In this exchange, the public didn’t see the press behaving badly. The reporters acted respectfully enough, asked basic questions, and didn’t abuse their right to be in a public space. Since there was no apparent provocation, Ms. MacIntyre managed only to make herself look like the bad guy. 

4. Her Response Garnered Worse Press: MacIntyre’s response spawned numerous stories across Canada about her approach to media relations. It’s difficult to believe those stories served Premier Clark well. MacIntyre could have either clamped down on the press more respectfully or allowed a couple of questions. Both options would have avoided those negative headlines, and both would have been preferable to her attitude-laden performance.

A grateful h/t to readers @bobledrew and @aboucherfuse.

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  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

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    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

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    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

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