It is rather timely that the biggest news story of this past week is among one of the most basic lessons of media training … which is, never speculate.
Media darling and President of the United States, Barack Obama, proved that even the best spokespeople are not perfect… and up until now, he has been close to perfect when it comes to speaking to the media.
Every executive and spokesperson in the world can learn from Obama’s gaff, which we would expect from Vice President Joe Biden, but not from Obama himself. When asked about the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Gates, Jr. by Cambridge Police Sgt. James Crowley, Obama weighed in to a story that he should have never touched because he didn’t have all of the facts.
Media Training teaches every spokesperson to never speculate. Obama speculated. The correct answer is and always should be, “I don’t have all the facts and it would be wrong for me to speculate on that.”
But Obama committed a triple sin. Sin one was speculating. His second sin was when he used inflammatory language, indicating that he believed the police department acted, “stupidly.” He let his own, personal emotions about race and racism cloud his judgment and his language. It became his achilies heel and caused him tread verbally into the danger zone.
The third sin is that Obama’s inflammatory statement deflected all the headlines away from his primary news conference and messages about health care. All the work; all the preparation for that news conference on healthcare was for naught.
I would love to have been a fly on the wall, behind the scenes in the White House, when the press secretary realized the sins the President was committing.
Lesson learned? When you have an executive who needs to be media trained, but insists that he or she knows how to handle the media, you can show them how even a media pro like Obama screws up. If he can screw up, so can your overconfident spokesperson. Media Training should be a mandatory for everyone from Director and above, with an annual requirement for a refresher course, and of course, full role-playing before every interview.
And by the way, the offer to have the 2 men involved over to have a beer is sin number 4. It is only prolonging the story and keeping it in the news. Sin number 5 will be the fight over which beer the men drink. Sin number 6 will be the flack from people who don’t think the president is setting a good example by having a beer.
I can hardly wait to see the 7th deadly sin in this saga.
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