Tag Archives: Media management

Keeping Mum

Godfather Vito Corleone taught son Michael one important lesson – keep your friends close, and your enemies closer. Without wanting to give anything dramatic away – for those who haven’t seen the Godfather II – Michael was betrayed by a family member. Which must really hurt.

Some public figures are learning a similar lesson about the importance of treating your family – and extended family – well.

Cricketer Mitchell Johnson has copped a public shellacking from his mother – for consorting with his fiancé – and rarely calling home to mum. The apron strings were clearly not as severed as Johnson believed…

"I get a text on Mother’s Day and a text on my birthday.
The last time I actually spoke to him was when the beach cricket was here (and) Dennis Lillee told him he had to ring his mother, so Mitchell rang me that day.
It has been like this since Jess came on the scene.
Up until he met Jessica we were very close . . . but he hasn’t spent a night under my roof since he met Jessica."

Johnson moved from Queensland to Western Australia to get away from his mother be with his lady friend – and it seems his mum wasn’t anticipating the consequences of the move…

"For the wives and the children I think it is great that they support them and send the over there, but who are these girlfriends? They are just girlfriends, Mitch met Jess and since then she has flown off to South Africa, to England and the Bahamas.

She gets all these trips, she gets flown there, accommodation, food and all of that."

It couldn’t possibly be a case of missing the perks could it?

My perennial political whipping woman – Sarah Palin – has also learned a lesson about not biting the hand that feeds your grandchild. Her disenfranchised ex-potential son-in-law – no doubt annoyed that he was thrust in the campaign spotlight for naught – has held a press conference. Yes, that’s right. A press conference. The high school jock who a year ago was heading towards a career hunting bears or something – called a press conference to spill the beans on his jilted almost-mother-in-law’s decision to resign.

Nineteen-year-old Levi Johnston, whose wedding to Bristol Palin was called off earlier this year, says he thinks the governor is resigning over personal finances.

Johnston says he lived with the Palin family from early December to the second week in January. He claims he heard the governor several times say how nice it would be to take advantage of the lucrative deals that were being offered, deals that included a reality show and a book.

Johnston made his comments at a news conference Thursday at his lawyer’s office.

After the McCain campaign paraded this guy around the country he wants a few more minutes of fame. So he’s becoming a Palin pundit.

What possesses people to settle family disputes through the media? It must surely put a permanent strain on the relationship – I can’t imagine Mitchell Johnson waking up feeling positively about his mum and inviting her to join him in England now – can you?

How to talk to the media without looking like an idiot

This post could, by rights, be renamed "Don’t be Sarah Palin"…

There’s nothing that annoys me more (both professionally and privately) than people botching interviews.

If the media is interviewing you it’s pretty much a free hit. They have a finite amount of time to gather better quotes from other people and your best chance of getting good exposure is saying something usable in a usable way.

Here are some general tips for broadcast interviews (because everyone loves a list):

  1. Don’t wear bright coloured stripes – they’ll bleed on screen and distract people (I’ve said that before I think).
  2. Look at the journalist not the camera – eye contact freaks out audiences.
  3. Don’t use the journalist’s name – you’re ultimately talking to the public, not the journalist. And throwing their name in the middle of your sentence makes the comment unusable.
  4. Have a go at actually answering the questions asked – most media trainers tell you to ignore the questions and regurgitate rehearsed PR guff. Chances are you’re not a politician and nobody really likes listening to that stuff. It’s usually full of weasel words – like “showcase”…

Right, so those are the basics.

The “un”-basics apply to more specific examples that have prompted this post. If you’re a politician holding a media coverage and you may or may not harbour desires to one day run for higher office – don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Particularly – don’t spend your time talking to the media complaining about how the media treats you. It becomes a self fulfilling prophecy – where the attention turns to how badly you handled yourself by complaining about the media coverage you received… you don’t really want this sort of paragraph appearing in any story about you.

“Ms Palin delivered the news from the backyard of her home in Wasilla, in a sometimes rambling 18-minute speech that took 11 minutes to get to the punchline. She veered from pugnacious to bitter as she lamented her treatment at the hands of the media and her political foes.”

This may seem obvious – but don’t do interviews about topics that are likely to create controversy – or things you don’t know anything about. Particularly avoid controversial topics where you might find yourself praising Hitler. That’s never good for your personal branding.

Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone has described Adolf Hitler as a leader able to"get things done" in a discussion about dictators during an interview with The Times newspaper.

Asked to comment on accusations that world motorsport chief Max Mosley behaved like a dictator, Ecclestone went on to speak about Hitler, former Iraq dictator Saddam Hussein – whom he said should have stayed in power – and the Taliban.

"In a lot of ways, terrible to say this I suppose, but apart from the fact that Hitler got taken away and persuaded to do things that I have no idea whether he wanted to do or not, he … could command a lot of people, able to get things done," Ecclestone told The Times.

If you know it’s terrible to say – don’t say it. It’s easy.

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No Comment

As an experienced PR person (I feel one year on the job and a 5 year degree makes me an “expert”) there’s one piece of wisdom I’d like to pass on to anyone out there who has anything to do with the media. NEVER*, NEVER**, ever say “no comment.” It’s poor media management, it takes away an opportunity to express your point of view in the public sphere and it just makes you look guilty. Don’t do it. Ever. Someone should pass this advice on to Sylvester Stallone and his management company. He copped a hiding in the media after he was busted trying to import 48 vials of illegal “stay young and fit” growth hormones on a promotional visit to Australia – eager to avoid uncomfortable questions in the future the Stallone camp has banned Australian journalists from attending his press conferences. The ultimate “no comment” – as a result every major Australian newspaper ran a story about his poor sportsmanship and recalcitrance. The rules for dealing with the media are (for those of you planning on ever being in front of a camera, or talking to a journalist).

1. Figure out your key message and stick to is – say nothing else if need be, all the reporter is looking for is a quote to write a story around – if you only say one thing that’s the only thing they’ll quote.
2. Never say no comment – if you don’t want to comment come up with a standard line explaining you won’t comment at this point as you’re waiting for more information – by the time that information comes the story should be well and truly out of the news cycle.
3. Don’t lie to the journalist.
4. Don’t try to unsay something you’ve said – that puts a big flashing neon sign over the statement – corrections are ok, flat out denials not so good.
5. Don’t get angry with what’s said. K-Rudd apparently needs to learn this one – what’s printed is printed, you can’t unprint something. Nor should you try to put pressure on a journalist – that breeds contempt and that’s bad. K-Rudd is looking into his media management strategy.
6. Don’t crack wise with journalists – if you say something that can potentially be taken out of context it probably will be. Only say what you want to be quoted.

Funnily enough, I started writing this entry yesterday just before I had to say “no comment” to a journalist – although he was a uni student trying to break a story we didn’t want broken so I’m not overly concerned about the far reaching implications of that – and I didn’t “no comment” him – I just didn’t return his calls.

*capitalised to indicate importance.
**repeated to indicate importance.