Posts Tagged ‘media training disasters’
2014 is off to a booming start—at least as it applies to media disasters.
Among other uncomfortable moments, this month’s list features a violent politician, a tone-deaf CEO, and a journalist who had a very exciting “breaking news” story to cover.
Without further ado, here are the five worst video media disasters of January 2014!
Number Five: Another Month, Another Drunk Rob Ford Video
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford needs help. His well-documented struggle with alcohol and some-time drug use has produced more than a few embarrassing moments, including one I named the worst media disaster of 2013. In this month’s entry, Mr. Ford was caught slurring his words in a Toronto restaurant, sounding something like a Jamaican version of Saturday Night Live’s Drunk Uncle.
Number Four: I’ll Sip Some Water During Your Water Outage
Gary Southern, the president of West Virginia’s Freedom Industries (the company responsible for contaminating the local water supply for 300,000 residents), delivered a dreadful first press conference. Although much of it was a mess, most of the media coverage focused on his unfortunate habit of sipping bottled water throughout the press conference—a strange message to send considering that hundreds of thousands were without water.
That wasn’t the only problem with his press conference. Click here to read about an odd moment in which a reporter demanded that Southern return to the microphones.
Number Three: We Have an Important “Breaking News” Story
MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell was having an important conversation about the NSA with a former congresswoman when she abruptly cut off the conversation to report some “breaking news.”
What was the breaking news? Well, this one you have to watch for yourself. Just try to do it without shaking your head.
Number Two: I’ll Break You In Half. Like a Boy.
When a reporter asked Staten Island Congressman Michael Grimm (R-NY) about an ethics scandal moments after the State of the Union, Grimm ended the interview abruptly. But after the reporter wrapped the piece—and Grimm presumably thought they were no longer on camera—he approached the reporter and issued a violent threat. (The fact that Grimm is a former FBI agent added a particularly menacing quality to his threat.)
The audio is tough to hear—but Grimm tells him:
“Let me be clear to you, you ever do that to me again, I’ll throw you off this fucking balcony…You’re not a man. I could break you in half.”
Grimm’s on-camera threat inspired other reporters to resurrect Grimm’s ethical charges. His threat—not the reporter’s fair question—put his scandal back into the headlines.
Number One: A Famous Film Director Flees The Stage
Michael Bay—the director and producer whose films include Armageddon, Transformers, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre—had a real-life horror moment during the opening seconds of a speech he was set to deliver at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas earlier this month.
When he hit the stage, his teleprompter wasn’t in the right place. And without a scriptwriter nearby, Bay was at a complete loss. So he stopped. And restarted. And stopped again. And then, when all else failed, he walked off the stage, accompanied only by a mumbled “I’m sorry.”
Bay has created a lot of cringe-worthy scenes in his career. But none have been this difficult to watch.
Learn from his mistake by clicking here to see five things Bay could have done to rescue that moment.
Bonus: Actress Jacqueline Bisset Accepts an Award
Actress Jacqueline Bisset waited 47 years to win her first Golden Globe, so it’s easy to understand why she became overwhelmed when finally awarded the coveted prize. But there’s a fine line between “excited” and “bizarre”—and her acceptance speech was so loopy that the anchors of Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update” took notice.
The real version:
Saturday Night Live’s version:
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Tags: Andrea Mitchell, Gary Southern, Jacqueline Bisset, Justin Bieber, media training disaster, media training disasters, Michael Bay, Michael Grimm, rob ford
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In 2010, the award went to BP CEO Tony Hayward, who told cameras “I’d like my life back” after his company’s massive oil spill killed 11 workers.
In 2011, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) nabbed the award, for obvious reasons.
In 2012, Senate candidate Todd Akin (R-MO) became notorious for his claim that “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”
Who will join their ranks this year? Read on…
Number Three: Lance Armstrong Rides Into Infamy
After years of denying doping allegations, suing former teammates, and bullying everyone who got in his way, cycling champion Lance Armstrong finally admitted what many people already knew: that he was a dishonest cheat.
Armstrong selected Oprah Winfrey for his on-air confessional, a lengthy interview aired on two consecutive nights. But Armstrong’s carefully parsed and evasive responses did more harm than good, leaving an indelible impression that he was still being untruthful (Oprah even asked whether he was a sociopath).
For example, Armstrong denied doping after 2005. But evidence presented by the USADA suggests he doped through 2009; if true, he lied during his admission.
One of his lowest moments came when discussing a phone call with Betsy Andreu, wife of cyclist Frankie Andreu. When recounting the phone call, Armstrong seemed to find it funny that although he admitted calling her “crazy” and “a bitch,” he didn’t call her “fat.” He grinned at his apparent wit, as if he was a mischievous kid who thought his cruelty was somehow funny.
In another stunning moment, he admitted that he couldn’t remember everyone he had sued because he had sued so many people.
A Survey USA poll taken shortly after the interview found that only 17 percent of respondents thought he was being completely honest. Those are probably the same people who tell pollsters the U.S. Congress is doing a good job.
In the clip below, Armstrong tells Oprah that he “deserves” to be allowed to compete again.
Number Two: Paula Deen Cooks Up Trouble
Paula Deen, the Food Network’s southern-cooking celebrity chef, found herself in hot water (or, more appropriate to her style of cooking, a vat of butter and lard) in June after The National Enquirer released details of racist remarks she’s made in the past.
During a legal deposition in a workplace discrimination suit, Deen admitted using the N-word in the past and making racist jokes.
But the most shocking moment may have come when she admitted that she wanted to emulate a wedding she had recently attended in which the wait staff was made up of “middle-aged black men.” That wedding, she said, evoked fond feelings for her of a Civil War-era “really southern plantation wedding.”
Deen made the mistake of waiting two days to apologize personally—and when she did, her apology (her first of several) was a mess—one of the worst I’ve ever seen.
A few days later, Ms. Deen sobbed through a bizarre, out-of-control, and uncomfortable interview with Matt Lauer on The Today Show.
With better crisis management, Deen could have come through this crisis less scarred. Yes, she would have paid a price—but I’m convinced that her poor crisis response contributed mightily to the magnitude of her disaster, which included the loss of her Food Network contract and several lucrative endorsement deals.
She may eventually redeem herself enough to make a good living again, but it’s unlikely she’ll ever reclaim her one-time success.
Number One: Rob Ford Cracks Up
It’s hard to imagine too many people keeping their jobs after the year Toronto Mayor Rob Ford has had.
In May, the U.S. website Gawker published a report claiming they had seen a video of Ford smoking crack. Ford denied those allegations for months, until finally admitting that he had, in fact, smoked crack.
But Ford didn’t simply admit smoking crack. He blamed reporters for his earlier lack of candor by claiming their questions months earlier had been asked using the wrong tense (“Do you smoke crack cocaine?” as opposed to “Have you ever smoked crack cocaine?”)
He also added a new page to the crisis communications playbook by casually blaming his drug use on being in a “drunken stupor.”
But Ford’s lowest moment—and the one I’m naming the worst video media disaster of the year—has to do with his casual mention of the amount of oral sex he receives at home.
During a press scrum, Ford denied charges that he had sexually harassed a former special assistant named Olivia Gondek. But the manner in which he did it was shockingly crass and unnecessarily graphic.
Ford capped off that ignominious day with yet another spousal indignity. He called a press conference to apologize for using such graphic language to describe his sex life. As he stood before reporters, his humiliated wife stood on the side of the stage, her eyes cast downward.
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Tags: Anthony Weiner, Lance Armstrong, media training disaster, media training disasters, Paula Deen, rob ford, Todd Akin, Tony Hayward
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Since beginning this blog in August 2010, I’ve written about hundreds of media disasters.
Today, I decided to go back and look at the most outrageous things people have said over the past three years and compile the most jaw-dropping sound bites I could find.
My list is subjective. If your personal favorite isn’t on this list, please leave it in the comments section below, preferably with a link to the video or news story.
Without further ado, here are 10 of the most jaw-dropping media interview answers from the past three years!
If you’re watching this at work, please note that a few slides contain bad language.
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Tags: Anthony Weiner, Barbara Morgan, Helen Thomas, Jerry Sandusky, Joseph Maturo, media training disasters, Michele Bachmann, Stephen Duckett, Todd Akin, Tony Abbott, Tony Hayward
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Jaymes Diaz is a Liberal Party candidate running for Australia’s Greenway parliament seat.
He recently released his six-point plan to handle immigration. But when a reporter asked him to describe that plan, he froze.
He actually started okay, and even used one of the suggestions in my post, “Five Ways to Recover From a Brain Freeze.” Here are four things he could have done differently:
1. Open The Plan
It appeared that he was holding the plan in his hands. He could have flipped to the page and systematically gone through the six points for the reporter. Interviews aren’t quiz shows—if he had the answers in his hand, he could have referred to them. That’s not the preferred method of doing things, of course, but as long as he did so with confidence, he would have been fine. By doing so, he would have avoided his amateurish deer-in-headlights look.
2. Walk Away
When there was a long, awkward pause in the conversation, Diaz had an easy opportunity to say, “Thank you very much” and walk away. Again, as long as he did that with confidence, it wouldn’t have looked bad; instead, he let several awkward moments pass before his aide whisked him to safety. Generally, walking out of an interview looks bad on camera—but in this case, there were moments where doing so would have come across naturally.
3. Adjust His Body Language
Mr. Diaz clutched his plan in front of him. Clutching an object in front of oneself is a sign of insecurity or unease—our human response to threats propels us to cover our vulnerable torsos. Although it could be argued that he was facing the plan to the cameras to show it off, the words would have been too small to read on most television screens anyway. He also constantly licked his lips, another sign of stress that might make this more of a “Marco Rubio” moment.
4. Know The Plan
Of course, there’s number four: know what’s in your own plan. There’s simply no substitute for a well-informed candidate who can discuss his own policy proposals with ease.
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Tags: Jaymes Diaz, media training disasters
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More than 40 people were killed earlier this month when a 73-car train filled with oil derailed in Quebec and slammed into downtown Lac-Mégantic.
The accident, Canada’s deadliest in almost 150 years, was horrific—some people sitting in a café, for example, were reportedly burned alive after fleeing, while others jumped from a building’s third floor to escape the inferno.
Edward Burkhardt, the chairman of Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railways (whose train was responsible for the damage), managed to make matters worse. He waited several days before showing up and giving a press conference—and when he did, he made an even bigger mess of things.
Mr. Burkhardt comes across in this press conference with the analytical nature one might expect from someone in a more technical profession. In so doing, he demonstrates that there is a mile-wide chasm between intelligence and emotional intelligence—and while he might have a lot of the former, it’s clear that he has little of the latter.
This press conference is a good example of what not to do. It’s worth watching in its entirety.
1. It was all about him.
He began the press conference by talking about his own feelings: ”I feel absolutely awful about this. I’m devastated by what’s occurred in this community. I have never been involved in anything remotely approaching this in my whole life.”
That’s not a bad start, but he failed to follow it up with a genuine statement of concern or commitment for the victims and the community. As a result, the inescapable takeaway was that his primary concern was himself, not the victims. (That may or may not be true, but it’s what his communications style reasonably led many people to believe.) The fact that he reportedly hadn’t met with the victims’ families didn’t help.
2. He showed up too late.
At the very beginning of the press conference, he perseverated over the question of why he hadn’t shown up sooner. “Frankly, it was easier [remaining in my office] than running around here with a cell phone in my hand and trying to do it from here.”
That may be true—but he seems completely oblivious to the fact that being present and exhibiting genuine compassion for victims is a necessary component of modern day crisis communications. In fact, he shockingly told one reporter, “I’m not a communications professional. I’m a manager,” as if competent management doesn’t require competent communications. (Plus, he was the Vice President of Marketing for Chicago and North Western Transportation, where he presumably needed to know something about communications.)
3. He talked business.
Burkhardt talked about insurance. He also talked about bankruptcy, future plans for the railroad, claims, and a key customer. None of that was appropriate. His responses should have maintained a laser-like focus on the victims: “There will be a time and place to discuss the financial impact of this incident on our company. Right now, nothing is more important than putting plans in place to make sure these families and this community are taken care of.”
4. He disrespected the community.
Incredibly, Mr. Burkhardt tried to assume the “victim’s” mantle, telling reporters:
“I thought people would respond to my willingness to come there…I mean, they were screaming about how I took three days to get there…People wanted to throw stones at me. I showed up and they threw stones. But that doesn’t accomplish anything.”
Those comments lead inevitably to point number five…
5. He looked like a jerk.
Mr. Burkhardt was condescending toward the press, even turning sarcastic when he asked one reporter, “Were you here a few minutes ago when I answered that?”
Given his demeanor, I question his decision to give a full press conference. He might have done better in a one-on-one format (particularly with print reporters who wouldn’t have shown video of his non-empathetic tone). He needed to say something, but I wonder whether a more able communicator within his company should have done the longer press conference. That’s not preferable in a crisis of this magnitude, but in this case, it might have been a more sound decision.
The lowest point came when he engaged in a pathetic attempt at wit. When one reporter asked, “How much are you worth?” Burkhardt responded, “A whole lot less than I was on Saturday.” In terms of summing up his self-focused tone, that quip was perhaps his most telling remark of all.
Photo Credit: Ottawa Citizen
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Tags: crisis communications, Edward Burkhardt, Lac-Mégantic, Maine & Atlantic Railways, media training disasters, Montreal, press conference
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National security vs. butter. Lies vs. racism. Self-soothing vs. hysterical crying.
This month’s two worst video media disasters couldn’t be more different from one another. One is arguably much more consequential than the other. But both (at least partially) destroyed the credibility of these two well-known public figures.
Without any further ado, here are the two worst video media disasters of June 2013!
Disaster One: U.S. Director of National Intelligence Defends His “Truthiness”
Back in March, a congressman asked U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper if the National Security Agency (NSA) gathers “any type of data at all on millions of Americans.”
Clapper said “no.” But watch his body language when he said that. While answering the question, he repeatedly rubbed his forehead, often regarded as a self-soothing behavior.
When caught in a lie after Edward Snowden leaked information this month that confirmed the U.S. did gather data on millions of Americans, Mr. Clapper offered an extraordinary excuse:
“I responded in what I thought was the most truthful, or least untruthful, manner by saying ‘no’.”
Got that, kids? Next time you’re caught in a lie, just tell your parents that you were answering in the “least untruthful manner” possible.
Disaster Two: Celebrity Chef Paula Deen Cooks Her Brand
In a deposition released this month, celebrity chef Paula Deen admitted using racial language and longing to plan a Civil War-era wedding complete with an all-black serving staff.
The inevitable backlash forced her to respond. First, her staff released a statement noting that Ms. Deen was raised in the south during a different era. Unsurprisingly, that landed with a thud. Ms. Deen then released three videos—none of them good—and canceled a scheduled appearance on The Today Show.
(Click here to see her videos and read four reasons why they failed.)
Finally, Ms. Deen rescheduled her Today Show interview—after she had already been fired from The Food Network—and proceeded to give a jaw-dropping answer to a direct question:
Matt Lauer: “Do you have any doubt that African Americans are offended by the ‘n’ word?”
Paula Deen: “I don’t know.”
With that answer, Ms. Deen confirmed what a lot of people already suspected: that she just didn’t get it. Many of her sponsors reached the same conclusion, costing her millions – or tens of millions – of dollars.
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Tags: James Clapper, media training disasters, Paula Deen
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The mayor of the fourth largest city in North America was accused of smoking crack cocaine by three journalists who viewed an unreleased video earlier this month. Not just any mayor, but Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, long known as a bombastic loudmouth who isn’t afraid to go on the offensive.
But in this case he didn’t go on offense for several days. His lack of doing so was noteworthy since it was inconsistent with his previous actions—and it led large swaths of the public to reach the conclusion that he’s guilty of at least something.
Here’s the story: On May 16, journalists for an American website and a Canadian newspaper said they had been shown a “secret” video of Rob Ford appearing to smoke crack. The next day, Ford faced reporters and issued this uninspired denial:
If you were falsely accused of smoking crack, wouldn’t you issue a stronger denial? Eight days later—on May 24—Ford finally spoke to the media again to issue another denial. But trucks could have driven through the holes in his vague statement:
Notice specifically what he said at the beginning of this statement: “I do not use crack cocaine. Nor am I an addict of crack cocaine.” He used the present tense (“I do not use…) rather than the past tense (“I have never used…”), a Clintonesque and lawyerly verbal construction that guilty people frequently hide behind. Nor, for the record, had anyone asked whether he was an “addict,” making that statement downright bizarre.
The vacuum caused by Ford’s lack of a solid response led to other charges, including a possible connection to murder. His administration is a mess. His chief of staff, press secretary, and deputy press secretary have all resigned. It will be interesting to see if Ford can survive this scandal—and if so, whether he can get anything done. True to his defiant nature, Ford has pledged to seek a second term.
A note about the Obama Administration’s IRS scandal
The other leading candidate for the worst video disaster of the month was the scandal involving the IRS and its targeting of Tea Party-affiliated groups. The particular moment worth citing was when Lois Lerner, the director of the Internal Revenue Service’s tax-exempt organizations office, disclosed at a meeting that her office had indeed been guilty of such targeting.
In addition to other reasons, that moment is worthy of mention because of the ham-fisted way she tried to disclose the scandal. Instead of notifying the press, disclosing everything she knew, taking responsibility and appearing forthright, she tried to slip it out casually during an otherwise routine meeting of the American Bar Association. Worse, she planted the question by arranging for it to be asked by an attendee at the meeting.
Attendees at the meeting were shocked by her bombshell disclosure. Those meetings are usually uneventful; several attendees remarked afterward that it seemed like an odd venue to bring it up.
From a PR perspective, Ms. Lerner used one of the worst possible techniques to disclose damaging information—and in so doing, she diluted her own trustworthiness while increasing the public’s suspicion. This was never going to be an easy scandal for her—or the Obama Administration—to manage. Ms. Lerner made a difficult task even harder.
Rob Ford photo credit: Gawker
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Tags: IRS, Lois Lerner, media training disasters, president obama, rob ford
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First, a disclosure: I wrote this story in mid-March before going on a two-week paternity leave.
So it’s possible that another public figure committed an even more memorable video media disaster during my absence. Either way, this month’s disaster deserves special recognition as one of the most bizarre moments in international diplomacy—ever.
It all started when former Chicago Bulls star Dennis Rodman was invited on a “basketball diplomacy” trip to North Korea. It turns out that he and North Korea’s totalitarian leader, Kim Jong Un, became fast friends.
The two of them palled around together for days, attending a sporting event, visiting an aquarium, and sharing drinks. The two of them became the biggest odd couple since Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. Or Milton Berle and RuPaul. Or Monica and Chandler.
Here’s Rodman’s spectacularly bizarre appearance on ABC’s This Week With George Stephanopoulos following his return:
Ignore, if you can, Rodman’s “dollar bills” jacket, his multiple facial piercings, and his dark sunglasses. Focus instead on what he said about Kim Jong Un:
“I love him. The guy’s awesome…he was so honest.”
“I saw that people respect him and his family.”
“He’s a good guy to me. He’s my friend.”
All that praise, for a man who claims he wants to destroy the United States and is keeping an estimated 200,000 of his citizens in political prison camps. According to Amnesty International, those prisoners are “…forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and are frequently subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment.”
When confronted with that information by a clearly annoyed George Stephanopoulos, Rodman compared Kim Jong Un’s shortcomings as a leader to Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.
Normally, I’d dismiss Rodman’s antics as a circus sideshow. But when Rodman is granted more access to a North Korean leader than any other American diplomat in years, his actions matter. And, as Stephanopoulos pointed out, Rodman handed Mr. Un an easy propaganda victory.
So I can only wonder what’s next. Charlie Sheen befriending Khaled Sheikh Mohammed? Lindsey Lohan joining Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s cabinet? O.J. Simpson hosting a memorial dinner in honor of Pol Pot?
Mr. Rodman has always known how to grab the media’s attention. But dating Madonna and dyeing his hair is a whole lot different than dating a tyrant whose citizens die at his command.
Are you as disgusted by Rodman’s antics as I am, or do you think this is a sideshow without many consequences? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
Tags: Dennis Rodman, george stephanopoulos, Kim Jong Un, media training disaster, media training disasters, North Korea
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