Archive for the ‘Media Training Analysis’ Category
Reporters for the college newspaper The Daily Princetonian are no longer allowed to conduct interviews through email. Neither are reporters for The Stanford Daily or The Oracle, the University of South Florida’s paper.
What’s behind this seemingly urgent push for “no email interview” policies? To find out, writer Mark Lisheron wrote a thoughtful and well-researched piece for the April issue of the American Journalism Review. (Disclosure: I’m quoted in the article.)
Unsurprisingly, his investigation revealed deep passions on both sides of the debate. Supporters of the email ban argued their side thusly, as summarized by Lisheron:
“E-mail deprives the reporter of all of the sensory advantages of the other interview styles. Facial expressions, gestures, posture. The sound and the cadence of the voice. The emphasis on words or phrases. The pauses.
As fast and convenient as they are, e-mail interviews are never really conducted in real time. The timing of the response, the allowance for measured and edited replies create an artificiality readers recognize.”
The then-editor of The Daily Princetonian, Henry Rome, explained his decision to ban email interviews by writing:
“Interviews are meant to be genuine, spontaneous conversations that allow a reporter to gain a greater understanding of a source’s perspective. However, the use of the email interview — and its widespread presence in our News articles — has resulted in stories filled with stilted, manicured quotes that often hide any real meaning and make it extremely difficult for reporters to ask follow-up questions or build relationships with sources.”
On the other side of the debate are those who make the case for email interviews. One past president of the National Information Officers Association said this, as summarized by Lisheron:
“Reporters, he says, have no inherent right to a statement from him. He reserves the right to ask for questions in writing and provide answers in writing, usually through e-mail.
Departments like his are trying harder to control the message, not because they are deceptive and evil, but because relationships with the media have changed.”
And another public information officer told him that getting questions in writing is:
“…not only a way to form more complete and accurate answers, but to be better able to parry inquiries designed to elicit specific responses.”
So who’s right? Both sides have a point, and the truth is somewhere in the middle. Like anything else (say, PowerPoint slides) the problem is less with the tool itself than with the way that tool gets used. That said, far too many spokespersons rely on email. They think they’re maintaining control by only offering written statements—and sometimes they are—but too often, they’re unnecessarily undermining their relationships with the press.
You can read more about my view on this issue in my article called “Three Reasons to Interview by Phone Instead of Email.”
I hope you’ll read Mark’s excellent article in full. You can find it here. And please leave your thoughts on this topic in the comments section below.
Tags: American Journalism Review, Mark Lisheron, media analysis, media training analysis, working with reporters
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 5 Comments »
Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, recently appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to promote her new book, Lean In: Women, Work, And The Will To Lead.
Ms. Sandberg had many terrific communications traits. She made an articulate and persuasive case, used her body language to reinforce her verbal points, and laughed heartily at Mr. Stewart’s jokes.
Something about her interview bothered me. I wanted to like her and agreed with every point she made—but I had a difficult time connecting with her. It took me a week and three viewings of her segment to figure out why.
If you can’t view this video on your mobile device, click here.
First, and perhaps most glaringly, she oversold her book. In a six-minute segment, she mentioned Lean In five times (Jon Stewart also mentioned it at the beginning and end of the segment; the name of the book also appeared in a giant on-set graphic, an on-screen book graphic, and a lower third graphic).
In total, viewers saw or heard Lean In no fewer than 10 times in six minutes.
It may surprise you that a media trainer who encourages people to remain on message was chagrined by that. But there’s a fine line between selling and over-selling, between being on message and over-messaged.
Mentioning her book title a couple of times would have been fine. But her continual mentions had the effect of pulling me out of her interview and reminding me that she was there to pitch a product, which compromised my ability to relate with her. Perhaps part of that wasn’t just the repetition—it may have just been that Ms. Sandberg didn’t pull it off without sounding a bit forced.
That leads me to my second point. Sandberg sounded a bit too rehearsed. And that’s a shame, because she did a lot of things right. Her anecdotes were tight and effective (e.g. “Pretty like Mommy” t-shirts, her friend’s five-year-old daughter), and her sound bites were great (e.g. “Men still run the world. And I’m not sure that’s going that well.”)
If I was working with her, I’d advise her to stop trying to deliver her lines as she rehearsed them and to start delivering them like she was talking to an elderly neighbor or a high school friend instead. From her less rehearsed moments in this interview, she appeared to have that ability. She should use it more often. She should be going for “real,” not “polished.”
The bottom line? Ms. Sandberg did a great job with the precision of her words, but didn’t do as well in terms of relating with the audience. (I’ve written more about that common challenge here.) The good news for Sandberg is that she’s really, really close. And with a little more work, she can do a better job of making that all-elusive audience connection.
If Facebook doesn’t shut down my account after writing this story, please stay in touch with me at www.Facebook.com/MrMediaTraining.
Tags: Facebook, jon stewart, media training analysis, Sheryl Sandberg, The Daily Show
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As my husband rocks our 5-month-old daughter back and forth in his arms to give me some time to catch up on work, I can’t help but think about Frank Bruni’s column in last Sunday’s New York Times.
Mr. Bruni has a lot to say about today’s parents. He’s “confounded by the boundless fretting, as if ushering kids into adulthood were some newfangled sorcery dependent on a slew of child-rearing books and a bevy of child-rearing blogs.” He says we’re too permissive, we bargain with kids, and we give them too many choices.
Whether you agree or disagree with Mr. Bruni, his argument is hurt by one glaring fact: He’s not a parent.
Until he knows the awesome responsibility and love that goes into raising a child, the constant worrying about his or her future and the – let’s face it – fear of failure, Mr. Bruni is really in no position to criticize today’s parents. His attempt at mitigating that fact by mentioning the time he spends with his many nieces and nephews just doesn’t suffice.
Mr. Bruni’s column raises an important question for PR professionals trying to identify the right spokesperson: How credible is the person as a spokesperson? For example, are non-parents the best people to deliver messages about parenting? Are men the best messengers to deliver messages about women? Are Democrats the best envoys to deliver messages about what they see as necessary changes within the Republican Party?
Take, for example, last year’s House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing on religious liberty and contraceptive coverage. In a hearing that was incredibly important to health care for women, the first of two groups to testify that day consisted of all men. As a result, three Democrats walked out of the hearing, Planned Parenthood circulated a photo of the all-male panel and the Democrats’ narrative that Republicans are insensitive to women’s causes was furthered.
Choosing the right messenger can make or break your reputation, as Brad wrote in this blog post and in The Media Training Bible. The same principle applies when your organization deals with sensitive issues. Don’t let the corporate hierarchy be the sole determinant of who the right organizational spokesperson is. If your CEO isn’t the best person to speak on a specific issue, find someone lower on the food chain who will appear more credible to the public.
Do you share my view or do you think I’ve gotten it wrong? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below. In the meantime, please follow me on Twitter @PMRChristina.
Christina Mozaffari is the vice president of the Washington, DC office for Phillips Media Relations.
Photo credit: Earl Wilson/ The New York Times
Tags: media analysis
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 7 Comments »
After taking two blissful weeks off to get to know my newborn son, I’m slowly catching up with emails, the blog, and other office duties. Thanks once again to the wonderful guest bloggers who helped me hold down the fort here in my absence. I hope you’ll scroll down and read some of their wonderful work.
My wife and I had a wonderful experience at the hospital, where the physicians, nurses, and other personnel did a great job of helping our new family get acclimated (and cope with some unexpected health challenges, which have fortunately been resolved).
But there was one bump in the road that threatened to undermine our entire hospital experience.
On our first morning post-delivery, an audiologist came into our room to administer a state-mandated hearing test. She struggled to attach the sensors onto our barely 17-hour-old son, who squirmed throughout most of the test.
As I watched the computer monitors give real-time results during the test, I noticed that his score was reading low. He needed 350 to pass—and he was hovering in the low 100s. What, exactly, were those numbers measuring, I asked the tech? She couldn’t answer. She was clueless, only reiterating that “350 was passing.”
That’s when the tech sent us into a panic. She asked, “Has he been crying a lot?” “Not really,” I answered, “Why do you ask?” “Because I learned in the graduate school class I’m taking that when a baby doesn’t cry a lot, it’s a bad sign.”
I thought my normally mild-mannered wife was going to strangle her. This tech clearly had no idea what she was talking about (newborns are usually quiet in the first 24 hours, we later learned), and she was unable to define what she meant by “bad sign.” Did she mean our son was going to be deaf? Have severe developmental problems? Autism? Again, she had no clue. Given that she wasn’t a physician or registered nurse, she shouldn’t have offered uninformed, unhelpful, and unclear speculation about the problems our son may or may not have had.
I barely slept that night. I spent the evening Googling message boards about the implications of not passing an initial hearing test. Some websites said newborns fail them all the time since their amniotic fluid hasn’t cleared; other parents discussed life with their hearing-impaired children.
Our son’s hearing was retested the next day. He passed.
You might say that this tech was particularly insensitive, or oblivious, or poorly trained. She may have been a combination of all three. But how many times have you encountered someone similar, someone in a position to offer reassurance who instead makes you feel more agitated due to their poor word choices?
It seemed to me that this experience is the perfect example of why even non-media spokespersons need media training (or even more tailored interpersonal communications training). I’m guessing that the tech would be surprised that her carelessness affected us so much. And with some basic training about what she should say to a patient and what she shouldn’t, this situation could have been avoided.
It’s good to be back! Thank you so much for being a loyal reader.
Tags: communications analysis, communications skills
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 19 Comments »
There’s a cute little cupcake shop on our town’s main street.
The store’s décor is welcoming and whimsical. The walls are painted bright pink, and the stools are shaped like something you might see in Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
My wife and I have passed the shop many times, each time looking longingly through the store window at the display cases, filled with cupcakes lined up in perfect rows—banana cream cupcakes next to chocolate ganache cupcakes next to peanut butter and jelly cupcakes.
We finally stopped in last week. And something the clerk said instantly removed the shop’s magic and made us unlikely to return.
When we entered the shop, I noticed that the store also sold brownies, my favorite. I asked the clerk if the brownies were also homemade, to which she said:
“Nothing in the store is homemade. We get it all delivered.”
With those 11 deflating words, nothing in the shop looked as cute anymore. And for the first time, I noticed that the shop smelled like nothing—it didn’t smell badly, but it also didn’t smell like baked goods. I purchased the brownie, ate it without enthusiasm, and decided to support a different store next time instead.
As we walked away, my wife remarked how different it would have been if the clerk had said something like this:
“We have an exclusive relationship with an award-winning bakery, and we’re the only store in our city that carries them. Our bakery makes 25 types of cupcakes for us every day, and they deliver them fresh every morning.”
We might have still been a little disappointed, but at least that type of response would have preserved some of the shop’s magic for us.
As readers of this blog know, I hate the word “spin.” So this incident serves as a perfect example of the difference between spin and smart strategic communications. Assuming for a moment that both of the quotes above are true, then neither is spin. But only the second message is smart and strategic—and therefore effective.
Tags: media training analysis, media training messages
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 2 Comments »
- The New York City ferry accident
- The Allstate “Hurricane Sandy” ad that infuriated a local resident
- An invitation sent to families of the victims of the Aurora, Colorado shooting
Rich was even kind enough to allow me to discuss The Media Training Bible for a few minutes. Hope you enjoy our conversation.
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Tags: Rick Klein, The Crisis Show
Posted in Media Training Analysis | Please Comment »
Over the past three years, I’ve critiqued hundreds of media interviews. When I see a spokespersons on television, I can’t help but to identify their strengths and weaknesses as communicators.
So when I watched back the video of an interview I did with Bob Andelman (known as “Mr. Media”) earlier this week, I couldn’t help noticing all of the flaws in my own performance. No, this interview wasn’t a bomb, and I doubt many people would look at it and say I did badly. But there’s no denying that it could have been better.
So today, I’m going to turn my pen onto myself. (After all, if I’m going to criticize others, I should be willing to be self-critical, as well!)
Here are five things I wish I had done better in this interview.
1. I Forgot My “Tight” Answer: A few days ago, I wrote a post featuring ten questions every author should be ready to answer. So when Bob asked me, “Why did you write this book?” I should have had a tight answer ready to go. The thing is, I did. But when he asked the question, I went blank. The good news is that you’d probably never know that I went blank since I answered the question without hesitating. But the answer I wanted to give temporarily eluded my grasp. You’ll hear the “right” answer at the very end of that reply.
2. I Gave a Clumsy NRA Answer: When discussing a topic that elicits such strong emotion as the National Rifle Association, you have to be particularly careful in your word choice. At one point, I referred to the gun show loophole as a “small thing.” That isn’t a word choice I’m comfortable with. I could have avoided that altogether by cutting off my answer a minute sooner. In general, many of my answers were too long. And as I tell others, the more you say, the more you stray.
3. I Nodded Too Much: At times, I looked like a Bobblehead Doll. It’s okay to nod along while listening to a question (assuming you agree with the premise), but a little goes a long way.
4. I Lapsed Into the “Energetic Monotone”: I had a lot of energy in the interview—but sometimes, energy without variety can lead to what I call the “energetic monotone.” It’s a good idea to vary your energy throughout an interview and occasionally break your vocal pattern when making a key point (doing so helps regain the audience’s attention). I should have slowed down and gotten quieter at a few moments when making an important point.
5. I Forgot One TINY Detail: I’ve gotten to know Bob through the years, and we occasionally trade emails. In a recent email, I mentioned to him that my wife and I are expecting our first child in March. I’ve never stated that publicly before, and hoped to have it remain private. But I failed to tell Bob that, so he brought it up in the interview (as he had every right to do). As I’ve written before, there’s no such thing as an “official interview” – everything you say before and after an “official” interview is reportable.
Yes, I write a media training blog and also recently published a media training book – so it might seem odd that I made some of these mistakes. But one of the points I make in The Media Training Bible is just how important it is to review your own media appearances and continue to learn from them. I may never reach media “perfection.” But I sure as hell am going to keep striving for it.
Okay, now it’s your turn. What else could I have done better in this interview? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
(Note: Despite the similarity of our names, “Mr. Media” Bob Andelman is not related to the Mr. Media Training Blog. But he does great work, so you should check him out!)
Tags: bob andelman, Brad Phillips
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 7 Comments »
For the fourth time in the past two years, I present another ten of my favorite media training and public speaking quotes ever. (If you missed the first three lists, you can catch up here, here, and here.)
And as always, please add your favorites to the comments section below.
- 1. “If a reporter doesn’t like the person he’s writing about, it shows up in his article.” Willie Stargell, baseball hall of famer
- 2. “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” – William Randolph Hearst, publisher
- 3. “Wooing the press is an exercise roughly akin to picnicking with a tiger. You might enjoy the meal, but the tiger always eats last.” – Maureen Dowd, columnist, The New York Times
- 4. “A news story should be like a mini skirt on a pretty woman. Long enough to cover the subject but short enough to be interesting.” – Anonymous
- 5. “Always leave them wanting more.” – Helen Hayes, actress (and others)
- 6. “There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave and the one you wish you gave.” – Dale Carnegie
- 7. “I’ve decided to discontinue my long talks. It’s because of my throat. Someone threatened to cut it.” – anonymous
- 8. “The audience is 50 percent of the performance.” – Shirley Booth, actress
- 9. “Watch out for emergencies. They are your big chance.” – Fritz Reiner, orchestra conductor
- 10. “That which is not resolved today will find you tomorrow.” – New York Yankees media training manual
Tags: media quotes
Posted in Media Training Analysis | 2 Comments »