Six Ways To Guard Against The “Fat Cat Backlash”

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 13, 2015 – 4:01 am

Ted Flitton Headshot 2This is a guest post by Ted Flitton, a public relations professional working in the banking industry. He is also the owner of T Communications. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.

I take no comfort in the escalating tensions between the U.S. and North Korea stemming from the hack attack on Sony Pictures, which resulted in the unauthorized release of sensitive information, reams of personal emails, and movie scripts. This crime has been described as one of the worst cases of cyber-hacking against an American company ever.

But at least now the story appears to be refocusing on the central issue of cybercrime.

Since late November, much of the media and public chose to focus on a different issue—illegally obtained leaked information—and demonized a Sony executive and a Hollywood bigwig who dished on celebrities and engaged in inappropriate racially-tinged banter. Both eventually issued apologies as people called for their heads.

Why is Sony the bad guy here? Why did so much of the public choose to attack a company which itself was a victim of a crime?

Sony Under Attack

Call it schadenfreude, a “fat cat backlash,” hating the one percenters; there’s no snazzy title. But it’s clear society often shows a warped sense of morality when large organizations face crises. This misplaced outrage makes it hard for issues managers to gain control of the story and preserve corporate reputation.

Take Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Video from a hotel elevator showed him knocking his then-fiancée unconscious with a single punch. People quibbled over his then-two-game suspension while demanding the commissioner of the National Football League be fired for mishandling the situation. There appeared to be fewer appeals for Rice to lose his job than the Commissioner, although eventually the Ravens did let him go. Clearly, to the sporting public, lax leadership is a sin greater than domestic abuse.


Don’t get me wrong. Both the NFL and Sony deserve harsh criticism for their actions (or inactions). Some level of the outrage is warranted when companies allow bad situations to fester. But the issue is balance. Let’s be outraged by criminal acts while we wring our hands over failed leadership or executive arrogance.

More important, let’s use these incidents to spur crucial social change. The Rice incident made the important subject of domestic violence part of a national conversation, but sadly, only for a few days.

Public relations practitioners need to preserve corporate reputations. But we can and must shape important societal conversations where possible. So how can we guard against the fat cat backlash and maintain balance in emerging issues? A few thoughts:

  1. 1. Be prepared for the inevitable. Technology experts say corporations should expect they will be victimized by cyberthieves. All entities that collect and store the personal information of customers or employees need to do a better job of protecting this information and planning for disasters.
  2. 2. Take responsibility. The NFL rewards men for tough, physical play. This aggression should cease the moment the whistle blows, yet until recently, the league has been reluctant to admit that some men may have trouble differentiating between the locker room and the bedroom. Players do receive some domestic assault education, but many women say it’s not enough. The league should show leadership and really help families. 
  3. Ray Rice
  4. 3. Form thoughtful, pro-active and all-embracing partnerships. The NFL is proud to help women fight breast cancer by partnering with Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The league recently launched an anti-domestic abuse campaign. That’s a positive move, but considering that pro sports leagues are largely built on the selfless contributions of mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters and wives, surely, these multi-billion dollar businesses can do more to truly honor all women.
  5. 4. Conduct company audits and address gaps. Rice’s two-game suspension rankled another player who received a stiffer punishment for off-season marijuana use. Imagine the goodwill generated had the NFL spotted this injustice and quietly worked to rectify it before the Rice incident.
  6. 5. Empower employees. Build a respectful corporate culture. Colleagues who admonish others for poisonous workplace behavior and blue chatter should be praised.
  7. 6. Generate goodwill. Thank supporters and engage with detractors. Return reporters’ calls and help them report stories, even if they are negative.

Taken together, these actions can help a company embroiled in full on crisis, but I fear in an age of uberoutrage their help is marginal. I turn this over to you, faithful readers of the Mr. Media Training blog. Have you experienced the fat cat backlash? How have you regained narrative balance during a corporate storm? 

Ted Flitton is a public relations professional working in the banking industry. He is also the owner of T Communications. He lives in Calgary, Alberta.


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How To Get Your Staff To Behave on Social Media

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on August 8, 2013 – 6:02 am

This is an excerpt from “Practice Safe Social,” a new e-book by crisis pro Chris Syme.

How do you get people to behave on social media? That is the million-dollar question these days. But, celebrities and politicians aren’t the only ones getting in trouble. Unfortunately, social media can make anyone a celebrity—and not in a good way.

A pastor in St. Louis found that out the hard way when she wrote a note to a waitress at a local Applebee’s on her receipt disputing an automatic tip deduction. An employee took a picture of the receipt and posted it on Reddit, a popular social media forum. The angry pastor complained to the restaurant and got the employee fired—a perfect storm of trouble that garnered national attention and ruined the pastor’s reputation.

Popular athletes like Johnny Manziel, last year’s Heisman trophy winner, have created such havoc on social media that college coaches everywhere are jumping on the “No Twitter” bandwagon.

Practice Safe Social

Prohibition does not teach responsibility—education does. In my new e-book, Practice Safe Social, I address the subject of how to educate people on issues of privacy, reputation, and brand building as they relate to the responsible use of social media. Telling people they can’t use social media only teaches them you don’t think they are responsible.

Remember the adage, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”? When you teach people how to use social media responsibly, you give them a valuable life skill. Give them the right tools and information and you’ll be amazed at how much loyalty they can build with social media. And that loyalty is a deep well that allows you to draw water when you make a mistake and keep on going.

When fans and customers trust you, they give you the benefit of the doubt. If you’re a follower of the annual Reputation Quotient survey from Harris Interactive, you know the direct relationship between reputation and bottom line. Figuring out how to get people to buy into the concept of education is the trick. As the actor said to the director, “what’s my motivation?”

We’ve all heard these guidelines for posting. Some are more effective than others, depending on the age of the audience:

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your mother to see. Well, truth be told, some mothers (and fathers) don’t have any more sense than a teenager. This may not drive the point home. Some moms might think it’s pretty cool to see scantily clad pictures of their daughters online. Have you ever seen Toddlers and Tiaras? Scary moms.

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see. Your grandmother probably loves you to death, and is very longsuffering about your mistakes. Your picture playing beer pong might not be her thing, but she’ll smile and hug you anyway. She doesn’t care what you post on social media. It may motivate some, but Grandma is the one person on earth that will forgive anything, no matter what.

Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want a future employer to see. The pocketbook is often a good motivator, especially for young adults. Unless your future employer might be a strip club manager or Deadspin, you probably should keep this one in mind. Here’s the visual I like to draw: imagine every job interview you’re going to in the future requires you to bring only one thing – a portfolio of everything you’ve posted online in your entire life. You and your future employer will sit down and look at it together. Now, what do you want them to see? Over 90% of employers search the social media of prospective employees. And, according to a Reppler survey, 69 percent of them have rejected a candidate because of what they found.

No matter what motivation you try and give people to use social media responsibly, the best motivation will always be showing them a direct personal benefit. Bad screenshots may scare some, but bottom line issues are what make most people change in the long run. Show them the money!

Know Your Danger Zones

Know thyself. Do you have a quick temper? Are you passionate about your hometown, sports team, or a political cause? Do you have emotional triggers like people getting away with cheating, corrupt politicians, mean people, or bullying? Make decisions ahead of time on how to respond to posts on social media that push your buttons.

Try making a social media contract with yourself. Have a friend or colleague witness it.


Don’t take the highway to the Danger Zone.


Here are some things you may want to add to your contract:

  1. 1. Leave the phone at home when you go out or leave it locked in your car out of sight.
  2. 2. Save messages as drafts before you send. Force yourself to put your device down for at least a minute, then go back and read it again.
  3. 3. Don’t read the negative and you won’t speak the negative – stay away from sites like Gawker, Bleacher Report, Deadspin, TMZ , and do not register a profile on any of these sites. If you’re going to read controversial internet material, don’t set up an account to do so, or leave a comment on the site. You never know who is watching—or searching.
  4. 4. Don’t post when you’re drinking or when you’re emotional – ecstatic or angry.

Take time to practice the behaviors that keep you on the right track:

  1. 1. Practice 140 character responses to emotional situations. Better yet, practice silence.
  2. 2. Study resources that will help you learn how to deal with the pressure like The Media Training Bible by Brad Phillips and my new e-book Practice Safe Social.
  3. 3. Unplug at night. Vow to stay off social media during a time period when you may be tired or need to do other tasks. Don’t live life at the mercy of a device.
  4. 4. Turn off your notifications and only check your social media at prescribed times.
  5. 5. Don’t defer to checking social media when you are bored. Find another activity to occupy your time.

Using social media responsibly is a skill everyone needs. Do you know how to practice safe social?

Chris Syme is principal at CKSyme Media Group, a consulting firm in Bozeman, Montana. Her agency specializes in reputation and crisis communication services including online crisis monitoring and social media training.

“Practice Safe Social” is available from Amazon here. 

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How To Use A Teleprompter And An “IFB” Earpiece

Written by Christina Mozaffari (@PMRChristina) on May 19, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: This post was written by David Shuster, a former MSNBC and Current TV anchor who currently serves as the managing editor for Take Action News. In this post, he responds to a reader who asked for tips on how to read from a Teleprompter and use an “IFB” earpiece, into which a producer speaks while you’re on the air.

Prompters and IFBs can be quite confusing, particularly if you are trying to master both simultaneously. So I would start by working on one at a time before bringing them together. Although in both cases, the learning process is the same.


TV and radio host David Shuster

Let’s start with the prompter operator:
  1. 1. Meet and communicate your expectations. This means advising him/her on where in the prompter (high, middle, or low) you want to see the words you are speaking at the instant you are saying them. Generally, you will want those words in the middle. This way, you can speed up or slow down your pacing and have the prompter operator only have to make minor adjustments to follow you.
  2. 2. Practice and make deliberate mistakes. This means adding words that aren’t in the copy to make sure the operator gets used to following you and stopping/starting as you change things.
  3. 3. Review the practice session. Provide feedback and discuss any adjustments either of you wants or needs to make.

In working with a producer/IFB, follow the same steps: 

  1. 1. Communicate your expectations. This means identifying in advance what the producer needs to tell you over IFB and what words/phrases you should expect to hear. Will he/she give you cues on when to start speaking? If so, agree on what the exact wording will be said in your ear, such as “go,” “now,” “cue,” or etc. Does the producer want to tell you how much time is left in the segment? Agree on how often you need to hear it. Generally, you will want a cue that there is “one minute” left, then “30 seconds,” then “ten seconds,” and “five.” Also, determine what other information the producer may need to tell you, and agree on what words/phrases the producer will say to communicate it. If the words are expected or familiar, you won’t be thrown off when you hear them. 
  2. 2. During your practice session with the producer, have him/her deliberately try to throw you off or distract you. It’s important that you learn how to deal with it and tune things out. Once you realize that you can keep talking even when something unexpected gets said in your ear, the fear of being thrown off will diminish. The likelihood of being thrown off will diminish too. 
  3. 3. Review the IFB practice session. Provide feedback to the producer and discuss any adjustments.

After the separate practice sessions, do one with the prompter operator and IFB/producer at the same time. Then, have a feedback session all together, in case there are any adjustments that any one of you needs/wants to make in conjunction with the other.  

Good luck and have fun!

David Shuster is an Emmy Award-winning broadcast news anchor and former correspondent for Current TV and MSNBC. He is the Host and Managing Editor of “Take Action News,” a nationally syndicated radio show. You can see more of his work here.

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Never Let Emotion Trip Up Your Message

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on March 29, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: Brad Phillips is taking two weeks off to celebrate the arrival of his new son. This guest post is by Dave Nagle, a senior communications analyst for the public relations company Vox Optima.

Pick an issue…any issue. (Go ahead, I’ll wait.)

Odds are, you have an opinion about that issue. It’s also a good bet that someone else (and for that matter, a whole bunch of someone elses) has an opinion about it too. Those opinions probably fall on one side of the spectrum or the other, or in one of several places in between. That issue might be an emotionally-charged one, which means emotionally-charged opinions.

Oh, and if it’s a political issue? Hoo-boy….

The news cycle is chock full of coverage of issues with many talking heads expressing opinions about said issue. The more emotionally-charged the issue, the more emotionally-charged the opinions. Some of them are … shall we say … EXTREMELY passionate.


PR pro Dave Nagle


There’s nothing necessarily wrong with being extremely passionate, until it turns into a lot of screaming and shouting and foaming at the mouth. If they were looking to make a point or change a perception, in my opinion, they failed. Miserably.

There’s the old adage “never let emotion cloud your judgment.” For the sake of this discussion, let me modify that adage to “never let emotion trip up your message.”

Depending on the topic or issue, it’s hard to separate yourself from the emotion. I get that. We’re human beings; we have emotions. It’s only natural. But first and foremost, the goal in any interview is to effectively communicate your message, based on facts. Whether you’re the one communicating or preparing someone else to deliver the message, the desired effect is to make your point clearly and effectively in order to support or defend your position or strengthen or alter perceptions about your organization. An interview filled with rabid hyperbole and a lot of screaming and shouting does nothing to make your point. In fact, not only is your point lost, but you also run the risk of supporting the opposite point.

But to be clear, I’m not advocating completely checking your emotions at the door or switching them off like the android Data could in “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” Sometimes, during an interview, emotions have their place. But the emotion must SUPPORT your message; it cannot BE the message. Emotions don’t last long. And then what are you left with?

Oh, and don’t try to fake emotion either. People are smart. They’ll see right through you—and then tune you out. So when preparing for that interview, consider the following:

  1. 1. What point am I trying to make?
  2. 2. How do I make my point clearly and factually?
  3. 3. Is a degree of emotion appropriate? If so, does it SUPPORT my message?
  4. 4. Is my emotion genuine, or am I faking it?

Remember, never let emotion trip up your message.

Dave Nagle, a senior communications analyst for the public relations company Vox Optima, has more than 20 years of expertise in defense industry, international and national public relations consulting, crisis and strategic communication planning, media relations, media training, and writing. He can be reached at

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The Ten Commandments Of Damage Control

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 7, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from “Masters of Disaster,” an excellent new book about crisis communications. The book goes into much greater detail about each of the ten “commandments” mentioned below.

I. Full Disclosure

Everything that can come out, will come out. All too often it’s the drip, drip, drip that causes most of the lasting damage. But you only get one bite at the apology apple.

II. Speak to Your Core Audience

Determine the key points to get across and stay focused on them. Reiterate your message at every opportunity. Discipline is crucial. But do not pander.

III. Don’t Feed the Fire

It’s human nature to succumb to the pressures of the moment that push you into making the situation worse. Resist that pull. But the prevent defense can keep you from winning.

Masters of Disaster Book Cover

IV. Details Matter

Be prepared with detailed answers to tough questions. The smallest discrepancy can get magnified into the biggest problem. But you are not in a confessional.

V. Hold Your Head High

Original actions may seem insignificant compared with mistakes made after the fact. Seize the moment to put out the entire story. But there are no second acts.

VI. Be Straight about What You Know, What You Don’t Know, and What You Are Going to Do to Fix the Problem

Your credibility is at stake—and the public can easily discern hedged answers and half-truths. When you don’t have answers, create a process to ascertain the answers, and make clear how you will fix the problem going forward. But don’t pick a fight you can’t win.

VII. Respond With Overwhelming Force

Identify the most important groups you’re trying to reach and what it is they need to hear. Keep it simple and keep saying it. But no message handcuffs.

VIII. First In, First Out

You can reduce your exposure by getting your story out there quickly and candidly. Often there are multiple players in a crisis, so let others become the star of the scandal. But know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, and know when to run.

IX. No Swiftboating

Your setback is your rivals’ opportunity—and that setback often comes from those with unclean hands. Get on top of your story and your message before they do, because they’ll try to make you look worse. Expose the real agenda of your opposition. But no civilian casualties.

X. They Dissemble, You Destroy

If your opponents engage in misrepresentations about you, your organization, or your company, go after them—hard. You protect your reputation—and undermine theirs. But don’t be too quick to judge and too soon to accuse. Damage control is not horseshoes or hand grenades, close does not count. You must have the opposition dead to rights if you call them out.

Want to read more? Masters of Disaster is available in hardcover here and for the Kindle here.

Copyright © Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag, 2012.

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Case Study: How Toyota Crashed Its Brand

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on February 6, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: This case study was originally published in “Masters of Disaster,” an excellent new book about crisis communications. This is one of several case studies the authors highlight in the book.

In January 2009, Toyota officially surpassed GM to become the world’s number one auto company.

Toyota’s success was decades in the making and directly attributable to the commitment of the Toyoda family (the company’s founders) to building one of the world’s most trusted consumer brands.

A number of surveys over the years documented that the carmaker’s brand was among the best in the world, and this was grounded in consumer perceptions of Toyota vehicles as safe, high-quality automobiles. Consumers trusted the Toyota brand so much that the company had developed a significant competitive advantage on the basis of its customer loyalty. If you bought one Toyota, there was a good chance you would have a long-term relationship with the carmaker.

In late August 2009—the same year the company became the world’s number one auto brand—an off-duty California policeman was driving a Toyota Lexus that accelerated in excess of one hundred miles per hour and crashed, killing the officer and his family. The incident received news coverage that featured a recorded cell phone call to 911 documenting that the acceleration was uncontrolled, and the driver had no part in the sudden acceleration. In part because of the novel, TV-friendly existence of the 911 cell phone recording, this became a story in the electronic media and spiked existing concerns about whether Toyota vehicles suffered from an electronic defect that caused uncontrolled acceleration—in turn putting pressure on federal safety regulators responsible for protecting the public.

The subsequent events provide key lessons in damage control careening out of control.

At the time of the fatal accident, Toyota was well aware of quality and safety questions about unintended accelerations. The trail of evidence included data from the NHTSA (the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration—the government agency empowered to ensure automotive safety) from 2004 indicating that Toyota vehicles accounted for 20 percent of all uncontrolled acceleration accidents (compared to 4 percent in 2000); the company’s own 2009 analysis into these accidents, which suggested that the cause of the uncontrolled acceleration was due to floor mats obstructing gas pedals; and an early October 2009 recall of 3.8 million cars to address concerns that the floor mats could be obstructing the gas pedal.

However, the story ratcheted up even further when in October 2009, the Los Angeles Times launched an investigative series examining Toyota’s safety and quality practices.

Over the course of several months, the paper reported that:

  • Toyota’s acceleration issues dated back to 2002, when the company began installing drive-by-wire systems in its vehicles.
  • The company had received 1,200 complaints of unintended accelerations, and the uncontrolled accelerations continued even when the floor mats in question were removed.
  • Toyota sought to prevent making available the data collected by onboard recorders of vehicles that had experienced uncontrolled acceleration.
  • And more people had died from uncontrolled accelerations involving Toyota cars than from all the other car companies put together.

In the face of these articles and other media coverage, Toyota continued to insist that there was no defect and that the floor mats were the root cause of the uncontrolled accelerations. The company even sent a letter to its customers at the end of October 2009 explicitly stating, “no defect exists.”

A few days later, the NHTSA took the highly unusual action of issuing an especially harsh response to Toyota’s “no defect” letter, calling it “inaccurate” and “misleading,” and adding that the recall of the floor mats “does not correct the underlying defect.”

The rebuke by the feds turned what was a big story into an even bigger story.

The controversy continued to escalate and Toyota issued a press release denying media reports about the defects. However, by late November, Toyota dealers were being instructed to remove and replace gas pedals and update the onboard computers on some vehicle models.

But the accidents continued.

On the day after Christmas 2009, a Toyota Avalon carrying four passengers accelerated and crashed into a Texas lake, killing everybody on board.

By December 31, 2009, Toyota had accounted for 33 percent of all uncontrolled acceleration complaints that year.

On January 16, 2010, Toyota stated that a supplier was responsible for the gas pedals that may have had a dangerous “sticking” defect.

Then five days later Toyota announced a recall for 2.3 million cars to fix sticky pedals.

And the problems for Toyota grew still worse.

On January 26, 2010, the company suspended the sale of eight models and announced that beginning the following week it would temporarily shut down five North American assembly plants. The company did not make public that it took these steps at the direction of the federal government, but the next day, Department of Transportation secretary Ray LaHood effectively called Toyota on the carpet by publicly stating that his agency had directed Toyota to suspend its operations—a statement that Toyota had to confirm.

On February 5, Toyota president Akio Toyoda finally appeared at a press conference. Facing the media, he apologized and announced a task force involving outside experts. But by now—after multiple explanations—the damage had been done.

Toyota temporarily shut down its manufacturing plants at a cost of $54 million a day; monthly car sales dropped below 100,000 for the first time in more than a decade; Toyota’s U.S. market share fell to its lowest level since January 2006; the company’s stock dropped 16 percent; Consumer Reports removed its “buy recommendation” on eight Toyota models; the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission initiated investigations; and Congress opened up its own inquiry, complete with public hearings.

By 2011, two years after ascending to the top, Toyota was passed by GM as the number one carmaker in the world.

And even though a subsequent NHTSA study came out generally supporting Toyota’s claim that there were no defects in the technical sense, and Toyota has since worked to claw its way back to its previous position in the public eye, Toyoda acknowledged that Toyota’s crisis response, like the warden and prisoners in Cool Hand Luke, suffered from a failure to communicate:

“We came to realize the problem was rather with communications.”

Masters of Disaster is available in hardcover here and for the Kindle here.

Copyright © Christopher Lehane, Mark Fabiani, and Bill Guttentag, 2012.

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Five Ways To Think Like A News Reporter

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 23, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s note: Today’s post is an excerpt from PR professional Susan Young’s new Kindle eBook, The Badass Guide of Social Media and Business Communication.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase, “Think like a reporter.”

Instructors, media pros, and PR wonks tell laymen this all the time. But what does it really mean? How do reporters think? And why do you need to be privy to this information?

You can’t effectively pitch stories to anyone in traditional or social media if you don’t understand how their minds operate. I was a news reporter. Please, allow me.

Here are five tips to help you figure out what they are looking for in a story:

1. Answer the question: “Who cares?” Every time someone pitched me a story, the overriding, nagging question in my mind as I listened or read was, “Who cares? Why should I cover this story?”  When you write your pitch or press release, be sure you can answer that question. This is about the content the reporter or blogger provides to their core demographic; their audience. Consider this powerful statement: How does my story affect and impact their audience?

2. Understand the medium. Some stories have great visuals and are perfect for TV, video or print. For example, the demolition of a sporting arena is visually appealing but isn’t as impactful for radio news. Think about the elements available to you and how they can complement your words and storytelling.

3. Put a face on your story. News is about people. People love great stories. Yes, a quote from an author, CEO, or board member can suffice, but it’s dull. Look for a person who has been directly affected by your news. They will tell a much better and different tale. They can get to the emotion because they actually experienced something. That, my friends, is the connection to the audience. It’s all about the human factor.

4. Find something new. A good reporter will ask the question, “What’s new here? Has something happened that we haven’t covered yet?” Look for new statistics, updates, or a fresh angle.  Clue: In the word “news” is the word “new.”

5. Give them the right tools. Like you, news decision makers want things to help make their jobs easier. I worked in radio. People would send me cheesy pictures in the mail of their CEO accepting some award. Forget the picture (this was pre-Internet). I needed a voice; a sound bite for my on-air newscasts. Come on, could I go into the news booth and hold up the goofy picture of the CEO and his award? Of course not. The PR person could have easily called me and arranged for the CEO to speak with me for literally two minutes so I could record the conversation and get his audio on the air. Instead, the picture and story landed in the trash. So did their credibility. You may notice that common sense is helpful.

In the end, reporters tend to be naysayers. They are so inundated with irrelevant phone calls, e-mails, texts, and general crap that it’s easy to become jaded. Mix in lousy pay, a fiercely competitive industry, and crazy hours. The mindset of, “Make my day” rules their world. It’s your job to do just that—make their day.

Susan is a great PR professional who knows her stuff. Click here for more information about The Badass Book of Social Media and Business Communication.

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How The Media’s Fast Reporting Hurts Athletes

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on January 2, 2013 – 6:02 am

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Kimber Auerbach, the Director of Communications for the New York Islanders. He wrote this to supplement a post I wrote last month about the challenge of notifying families about a death before they learn about it from the media. 

I do not want my comment to come across as demeaning the bigger picture of, “Should you wait until the family is notified of a death.” That’s obviously an issue of greater severity than the one I’ll write about today, but I wanted to share an issue we deal with in sports regarding “Information being released before a player is notified.”

The trade deadline is one of the busiest days of the season in hockey (or any sport) for management as they try and better their team for either a playoff run or the future. Players are on edge because they don’t know if they’ll be on the ice skating one moment and get pulled off the next to be informed that they’ve been dealt.

Reporters are so connected to their smartphones that it has literally become a race to see who can tweet the information first. Who can write the better story about how BLANK player will fit in with the team or how this deal helps the future seems to have become secondary. The media are too fixated on tweeting the news first, as reporters want to be the one sourced in all the articles as “BLANK reporter (@BlankReporter) tweeted the news first.”

There have been players that said they found out about being traded from watching TSN TradeTracker:

It really is a shame that players wind up finding out about a trade this way. For them, it’s life altering news that means they’re going to have to pick up their world and move it to another city. Yes, the media are doing their jobs in reporting the news as quickly as they possibly can, which in one way you can’t fault them for doing. However, there should be something that prevents them from doing so until all players are notified and the information is properly filed to the league, much like there seems to be in news reporting when someone tragically passes away.

It goes the other way as well. Sometimes, the media speculate about where a player may be dealt, and family and friends of a player see the rumors before a deal is even done. We’ve had players call to ask if it’s true that they’ve been traded, only to find out the reports are false. But because the media are so into breaking the news—and are often times correct—a player’s world gets turned upside down for no reason.

Until the day when there is a system to allow a period of time between the finalization of a deal and alerting the media, we as PR reps for teams are left to confirming the news that the media has already reported.

Now available: The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview. Click here to read more.

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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.

    Brad Phillips

    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.

    Brad Phillips

    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.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

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