Write and Complete a World-Class Crisis Communications Plan in the Two Most Intense and Productive Two Days of Your Career

Join Global Crisis Communications Expert Gerard Braud in Denver, CO

October 29 & 30, 2012

Save Time – Save Money – Save Lives

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You need a Crisis Communications Plan, but you don’t have time to write one on your own or you know you don’t have the expertise to do it correctly. You need a Crisis Communication Plan, but every price you’ve gotten from an agency is expensive and outside of your budget.

You need help. We have the solution.

Only Gerard Braud offers this intense 2-day program that generates his exclusive, world renowned Crisis Communications Plan, used around the world by corporations, non-profits and government agencies.

You bring your team of writers and Gerard Braud will provide you with the most amazingly designed communication documents. You and your team of writers will customize your plan under his personal supervision.

You’ll leave the workshop not with theory, but with a finished document.

You could struggle on your own and after a year of work never create a Crisis Communications Plan that is this well thought out and perfect for every crisis.

You could hire an agency and spend more than $100,000 and not achieve the same level of success.

Your cost to attend this amazing workshop is just $7,995 per company/organization.

For one corporate price, you are invited to bring up to 6 writers to participate in the 2-day process of customizing your company’s new plan.

This isn’t touchy-feely collaboration. This is you and your team locked in a room for 2 days getting real work done without distractions.

This is going from your “to-do list” to your “done list.”

This is going from “I wish we had” to “we did it.”

Size & Price Matter

Many organizations spend 6 months and $25,000 to $100,000 to create a six page plan that will fail them every time, which is the document on the left side of this photo. In just 2 days we create the document you see on the right. It is 3 inches thick and full of everything you need to do and say in a crisis.

Register before Monday, October 15, 2012 and receive an immediate $500 discount.

Earn an additional $500 discount for each additional company that you recruit to join us for the 2-day workshop.

For registration details, call Gerard Braud at 985-624-9976.

Can’t Make These Dates?

Call us to discuss your options.

About Your Instructor

Known as the guy to call when “it” hits the fan, Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) is an expert in crisis communications and media issues. He is an international trainer, author and speaker, who has revolutionized crisis communications for organizations on five continents.

Versed in the daily struggles of corporations, non-profits and government agencies, Gerard developed this exclusive 2-day workshop as a remedy to cries of “we don’t have time to do it on our own” and “we can’t afford to hire an agency.”

Only Gerard Braud bridges the gap by offering an affordable alternative in a time frame that fits everyone’s schedule and budget.

What’s his secret? As a senior communicator with more than 30 years experience as a journalist and a corporate communicator, Gerard has been on the front line of crises his entire career. He has invested more than 1,500 hours of time into capturing the most perfect behaviors any communicator could dream of… and he’s put it into a sequential plan. It is a plan so thorough that nothing is left out, yet a plan so perfectly organized that it can be successfully executed by anyone who can read, regardless of their job title or communication experience.

What You Need to Bring

  • A laptop for each writer
  • 6 of your best writers
  • Specific documents you will be asked to prepare in advance.

For full details and answers to all of your questions, call 985-624-9976 or email

The Fine Print: Each Crisis Communications Plan is the intellectual property of Diversified Media, LLC, dba Gerard Braud Communications. As such, your organization is technically purchasing a license to use the plan. Your organization is granted rights to use the plan, but it remains the copyright product of Gerard Braud Communications. As such, you are prohibited from ever sharing your plan with anyone who is not an employee of your organization.

Free Teleseminar May 10-14 with Gerard Braud

If you have to talk to the media or train people who have to talk to the media, here is a free teleseminar opportunity for you.

May 10-14, a group of All-Star A-Lists hosts will be interviewing author Gerard Braud (Jared Bro) about his new book, Don’t Talk to the Media: 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter. The hosts will also be taking your questions for Gerard. All you have to do is register and call in at 11 a.m. CDT on the day of the seminar that you select. Limit 1 registration per person please. All 5 are reserved FREE for those who make an advanced purchase of the book.

Here are details about the day, topics and hosts… plus your registration links

Monday, May 10th – Christine Bragale interviews Gerard about dealing with the media regarding advocacy, public affairs and legislative issues.

Tuesday, May 11th – Paul Ladd interviews Gerard on all things media related.

Wednesday, May 12th – Michael Schwartzberg interviews Gerard about how to prepare spokespeople who come from a technical background, such as doctors, lawyers and engineers.

Thursday, May 13th – Pam Walker interviews Gerard about how to deal with small town media.

Friday, May 14th – Tom Keefe interviews Gerard about the corporate side of media relations, including media relations in large multi-national companies.

Below are the sign up links. Sign up for just one:

May 10 Sign Up

May 11 Sign Up

May 12 Sign Up

May 13 Sign Up

May 14 Sign Up

Feel free to share the links with colleagues and associations who may want to join in. We simply need each person to register so we have enough phone lines available.

If you would like to know more about Gerard or his new book, please visit:

Crisis Communications 2010 and the Tiger Woods Scandal

By Gerard Braud

It’s hard to believe that in 2010, people can still screw up public relations, crisis communications, crisis management and media relations, as much as Tiger Woods and his handlers.

Friday’s statement by Woods was old school. It was bad. It was too little. It was too late.

The Gerard Braud school of crisis communications says you should issue a public comment within one hour or less of the onset of a crisis going public. That means a statement should have been issued the day of the accident.

It’s 2010 and we have I would have had Woods post a short YouTube video the morning after the accident. Nothing fancy; a simple point and shoot video camera with Tiger on camera saying, “Hi, this is Tiger Woods. Last night I did something really stupid and embarrassing. While backing out my driveway I hit a fire hydrant. I over reacted, pulled forward and hit a tree. You can imagine how embarrassing this must be for me. I’m okay. I’m not injured. I appreciate the concern of my fans. At this time I simply need to repair my car and my ego.”

When you say nothing, you open the door to speculation. When Tiger said nothing, he opened the door to all of his affairs. Had he issued a statement, there is a good chance none of this would have ever gone public and he could have dealt with his infidelity in private.

Waiting three months to make an appearance is unacceptable in 2010. Also unacceptable is the idea that Woods had to do the statement live, reading from a script, and taking no questions from reporters.

Here are my observations: Read more

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Lesson 23: Selecting the Right Spokesperson

By Gerard Braud

Picking the right spokesperson really depends upon the situation.

Many organizations tend to have two extremes in selecting spokespeople. Some organizations always send out their top PR person while other organizations insist that only the CEO speak.

I endorse neither of these approaches as perfect and will suggest that sometimes the top PR person is a great choice and likewise in some cases the CEO is a great choice.

But in many cases, neither of these people is a good choice.

In fact, if you think back to lesson 12 in which we talk about passing the cynic test, many reporters cynically will think that the PR spokesperson will be too polished, slick and rehearsed, and is therefore serving as a buffer to protect executives who are afraid to talk and who are vulnerable to difficult questions. Conversely, if the cynics see the CEO out front as the spokesperson for certain events, they will assume that the event is more serious because the CEO is having to handle the situation.

As a reporter, I generally wanted to talk to the person closest to the story or issue I was covering. If a hospital has a new procedure to announce, I’d rather speak to a front line doctor than either the PR person or the CEO. If the news report is about a non-profit agency, the best spokesperson for the story might likely be a volunteer. If a company is accused of wrong doing, I’d like to interview the manager who is closet to the issue at hand. If there is a fire and explosion, I’d rather speak to an eye witness or line supervisor.

The closer you can get the reporter to the person closest to the issue or event, the happier they will be.

Of course, this means that when it comes to media training, you need to use the same principle that a great sports team uses. You must train lots of people and build bench strength.

Training deep means managing budgets and calendars such that you can do both primary training and refresher training on a regular budget. Usually, budgeting time and funds is proportionate to the size of your organization. In proposing deep training and budgeting, just remember that the value of a single news story can easily pay for a single media training session. In fact, in most cases, the relative ad value of a single news story is 3 to 9 times greater than the cost of a media training class.

As an example, a 30-second TV commercial during a newscast may cost $4,000 to $5,000, which might also be the cost of a single media training class. However, according to the rules of relative ad value, a 30 second TV news story is considered 3 times more believable than a 30 second advertisement, hence the relative ad value of a 30 second news story could be $12,000 to $15,000. Most news stories run 90 seconds, which could increase the relative ad value of a single TV news story to $36,000 to $45,000 dollars or more. To take it one step further, most towns have one newspaper, 3-5 television stations and multiple news radio stations. Hence, the relative ad value of a news event could easily be worth $300,000 or more, depending upon which city you live in and the price of a 30 second commercial. More modern measurement methods can be even more precise in measuring relative ad value because they calculate the positive and negative nature of the story. The bottom line is that you can easily justify investing funds to train multiple spokespeople based on the positive financial impact it may have. Remember our rule about, “if you could attach a dollar to every word you say, would you make money or lose money.”

Hence, develop bench strength so you can have a large number of spokespeople to send forth and not just the head of PR or the CEO.

As for using the PR person, in Don Henley’s song, “Dirty Laundry,” he speaks of the bubble headed bleach blonde news anchor who comes on at 5 p.m. and how she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye. Well the same is true of many PR spokespeople, which makes them not my choice on many occasions as spokespeople. Regardless of whether news is good or bad, some spokespeople are able to stand before reporters and maintain a bubbly persona as though all is well, even when it isn’t. Their answers are often glib, superficial and poorly rehearsed. I hate that and so do most reporters and that is why many times I don’t want a PR person to be the spokesperson.

At the same time, many CEOs attempt to be too serious, attempt to communicate way too many details and generally look like the world’s biggest grump. I hate spokespeople like that.

The one time when I always want the PR person and the CEO ready to both act as spokespeople is when I write a crisis communications plan for an organization. I generally ask that the PR spokesperson and CEO both be included as spokespeople, along with a host of other executives.

Generally, in the first hour of a crisis, when information is still limited and most executives are busy managing the crisis at hand, I suggest that the PR spokesperson read what I describe as the “First Critical Statement.” This document lays out the very basics of what is known until more details are available.

Generally, I follow the initial statement one hour later with a more detailed statement delivered by a manager who has more expertise and knowledge about the subject at hand. This is one of the reasons why mid level executives need to be media trained.

Many companies will have sent out their CEO by this point to serve as the point person and lead spokesperson. I do not agree with this approach because I would prefer for the CEO to be leading the crisis team during the crisis. Furthermore, if a company uses a CEO as their spokesperson and the CEO misspeaks, who will come behind the CEO and clean things up if the CEO makes a mistake. Generally, I save the CEO to be the final spokesperson when the crisis is over. It both allows the CEO to clean up after any misstatements by middle managers and it allows the CEO to be portrayed as a leader who was managing the crisis.

Words are important, but you also send signals to the media by whom you select as your spokesperson. Choose wisely.

In our next lesson we’ll discuss the do’s and don’ts of a news conference.

Lesson 22: The Power of Passion

By Gerard Braud

Few things are as underestimated in a media interview as the passion a spokesperson conveys.

In lesson #8 we talked about why the facts don’t matter and how to create great quotes. If you learn to combine great quotes with passion you not only insure your quote gets used in a news story, but you can also dominate and control the direction of the news story.

Too often in the world of spin, “truthiness” quotes are developed that spokespeople memorize, rather than internalize. Hence the spokesperson sounds stiff and rehearsed when they deliver the quote.

A quote that is internalized and delivered with believability and passion gets used in a news story every time.

The best role model that I have for the power of passion is to study the behavior and media tactics of protesters and activist groups. One activist can say more in 4 seconds than all the facts a detail-oriented person can say in four hours.

The example that comes to mind most for me is the night I was covering a public hearing in which a multinational company wanted to build a chemical plant in the rural industrial community.

In this community, a vigilant group of environmental activists was working to convince the community that the proposed chemical plant would belch out so much pollution that it would essentially kill everyone with cancer. And although many residents believed the activist, an ever larger number of people believed that the plastics plant would bring much needed jobs to the rural area and help boost the area’s tax base.

The hearing was held in a rural courthouse and began with testimony by engineers from the company and environmental experts representing the state’s department of environmental quality.

For several hours, engineers and scientists presented data on why the plant could be built and operated safely. It was excruciatingly painful to sit there for hours listening to the monotone drones of these experts as they moved through their boring PowerPoint slides.

Several hours into this hearing it was time for me, the reporter, to exit the courthouse, head out to my live truck and begin editing my story for the 10 p.m. news. I knew it was going to be a difficult story to write because I really didn’t have any good quotes.

As my photographer and I began to gather our equipment and head to the door, a member of GreenPeace came rushing up to me. He said, “Gerard, you can’t leave yet, we haven’t had a chance to speak.”

I assured him that I would tell both sides of the story and that I was willing to interview him or another representative of the opposition if they would just step outside of the hearing room with me.

“Just give us 5 more minutes,” he pleaded.

Curious, I agreed to stay in the hearing room 5 more minutes.

As the engineer at the podium continued to drone on in monotone fashion, the activist stood, walked to the podium, delivered a thundering fist pounding to the podium and shouted, “This hearing is a sham and we are out of here!” With that, all of the opponents stood up and walked out of the hearing room. Wow!

With that, I had my quote to finish telling the story. In just 4 seconds, the activist said more than the official corporate and government experts said in several hours. All of those technical facts did not matter.

The quote from the activist summed up all of the frustration of the people they represented. Most of all, they passionately conveyed their beliefs. Although the scientist, engineers and experts may have high belief in the facts they presented, they were unable to present them with any passion.  And while the protestors could be challenged on whether the hearing was really a sham, they successfully summed up and encapsulated their feelings.

The lesson here is that when you create those great quotes, internalize them, then add emotion and passion to make them stand out and become memorable. When you do, you take control of not only the quote, but of the entire story.

In our next lesson we’ll discuss ways to select the right spokesperson for your organization.

Lesson 21: The Secret to Handling Negative Questions

By Gerard Braud

Most questions from most reporters are negative. News in general tends to be negative because it is usually about serious change or a disaster. I wish news wasn’t negative, but I spent 15 years in the business trying to change that and couldn’t. Then I’ve spent every year since 1994 trying to change it and I haven’t made any progress.

With that said, I’m going to teach you the secret to answering a negative question. Let me go through the various steps first and then I’ll explain each step.

You must:

• Listen to how the question if phrased.

• Ask yourself, is it a negative question?

• If so, realize you are not obligated to directly answer the negative question.

• Determine if the negative question can be phrased in a more positive manner.

• If it can, mentally ask yourself the positive question.

• Then, answer the question using a positive answer that responds to the positive question.

Of course, the time you have to do this is a nanosecond. But much like internalizing key messages is done through daily repetition, this skill set must also be practiced in daily conversation.

Let’s break it down using an actual case study. In the late 1990’s, a chemical company wanted to build a $700 million dollar facility in the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River about 40 miles upstream from New Orleans.

Ten year’s earlier, as a reporter I covered a Green Peace anti-pollution campaign along the river and nicknamed the area, “Cancer Alley.”  During a 2 week period of protesting, they convinced many people that cancer rates in the area were high and that the cancer was caused by chemical plants.

Scientific proof, however, indicated that cancer rates in the area were no higher than anywhere else in the world. However, mortality rates, especially from lung cancer, were high. That was because smoking rates were high, especially among the poor, who had no health insurance and were generally diagnosed with cancer after it was very advanced.

With that background, imagine the task of trying to build a new chemical plant in “cancer alley.” Despite the jobs it would create and the economic impact, opposition groups were quick to allege that if built, the chemical plant would be a cancer causing polluter.

The turning point in this story came in a news interview where a television reporter asked the company spokesman, “Will this plant pollute?” His answer was, “Well, yes. We have permits from the state of Louisiana to produce caustic chlorine, EDC, VCM and PVC and those permits are essentially a license to pollute.”

There are so many sins committed in this one quote, but let’s stay on task and examine the question first.

Was the question negative? Yes.

What was the question behind the question? It was, “when you build this chemical plant, will it pollute and kill everyone with cancer?”

The spokesperson essentially said yes, the company will kill everyone with caner and that they had a license to kill.

Could there be a positive version to this same negative questions? Sure, a more positive question would have been, “the people in the community are afraid your chemical plant will cause cancer. What assurances can you give them that you can operate in a safe manner?”

Do you see the difference between that question and the original question? Do you see how both questions are essentially asking the same thing?

The proper positive answer should have been, “In order for us to receive permits from the state and federal government, we must promise to be protective of human health and the environment. Let me tell you how we plan to do that…”

In addition to not answering the question in a positive manner, the spokesperson committed a whole host of sins. The sad thing about the original answer is the spokesperson was attempting to be honest, but in the end he was actually telling more of a lie than he was telling the truth. He was honest to a fault. Everything we do as humans causes pollution, from driving our car to flushing the toilet. And while there are always some emissions from chemical plants, much of the $700 million dollar price tag would be pollution controls.

Additionally, because the spokesman’s personality type was geared toward being a details person, he began listing the chemicals the company would make by name. To the average person in the audience with a 6th grade education, it was frightening jargon, equal to telling the audience he would be making “ethyl methyl death.”

I’m going to guess the spokesperson did not practice before the interview. What’s sad is I know he went through media training. I was not his trainer but I observed the class as one of the pioneers of media training worked with him.

Finally, I am sure the spokesman did not attach a dollar to every word that came out of his mouth, because the $700 million dollar plant was never built and his quote was one of the main reasons.

To learn how to answer negative questions in a positive manner, you have to practice this skill daily as you practice your key messages.

In our next lesson we’ll examine the role passion plays in media relations.

Lesson 20: The Secret to Internalizing Key Messages

By Gerard Braud

In the early stages of media training, many students are skeptical about the concept of key messages. Accepting key messages and using key messages effectively takes time and practice.

As I mentioned in lesson 15, in most media training classes I first conduct a baseline interview, then I introduce the concept of key messages to the student, then I conduct a second interview to give them an opportunity to test drive a set of key messages that we have agreed upon.

After the second interview I always ask whether the second interview was easier or harder than the first. Usually 50% if my students think the interview is easier once they are given key messages while 50% think the second interview is harder when they have to remember key messages.

And as I mentioned in lesson 2, many people have difficulty with key messages because they try to memorize them. Remember, the goal is to internalize them. That means you learn them first in your head and over time, you grow to know them in your heart.

But how do you successfully internalize a series of key messages?

It begins when you start using all of your media training techniques and key messages every day. Sure, the class is called media training, but the skill set you learn should serve you well in presentations, when talking with employees, when talking with friends at a party, etc.

To begin with, work with a good writer to craft your key messages and make sure the key messages are written to match the way you speak. The key message needs to be in your voice using the kinds of words you would use, provided those words are not jargon. As we’ve mentioned before, if you are guilty of using jargon you’ll have to cure yourself of that habit and the key messages may help.

But when I say put the key messages in your voice, I really mean that the sentences need to be structured to fit your speech pattern. Some people have difficulty pronouncing certain words. I, for example, have difficulty saying the word, “particularly.” It is due in part to the speech impediment I had as a child. So I replace “particularly” with the word “especially.”

Next, make sure the key messages are factually true. If there is the least bit of exaggeration or the slightest falsehood, you will trip over your words every time.

Once you have 2-3 key messages that you like, start using them every day in as many conversations as you can with as many different people. You need to essentially test drive the key messages the way you would test drive a car before you buy it.

Try this little test – Use the same key message 3 times a day with 3 different people each day for 3 weeks. By the end of three weeks, you will actually hear someone saying almost your exact words either to a colleague or back to you. What is amazing is that they will say it with confidence as though it is their own original thought. They may say it to you without ever realizing that they first heard it from you.

This point is further proven if we go back to our previous discussions about jargon. If the CEO constantly uses a phase such as “customer centric,” eventually all of the vice presidents will use the term, followed by all of the managers and directors. I worked for a major retailer as a vice president for a while. Within the first few days on the job I was overwhelmed by how fast jargon was transferred through the ranks. Your good key messages can be transferred through the ranks as well.

As you master the first few key messages, learn a few more and use them daily until they are internalized.

You’ll notice that the first few times you attempt to interject the key messages into a conversation it may seem awkward. That is to be expected. But with each passing day, those key messages will begin to sound more conversational. Ultimately, that is your goal – to be able to use your key messages in a very conversational tone when you are talking to the media.

In our next lesson we’ll examine the secret to a great interview and a great answer.

Lesson 19: Preparing for a Desk Side Visit

By Gerard Braud

If you are a big organization, occasionally a reporter from a major media outlet will call and ask for permission to do a “desk side visit.”

Be careful. These can be deadly.

A desk side visit is when a reporter wants to come by the office, not to write a particular story, but to visit with key executives and get to know them. Most often the reporter will be with a major newspaper or magazine and usually the reporter has recently been assigned to cover all stories related to your company, non-profit, agency or business sector.

While it is true that the reporter wants to get to know you, the entire time they are with you they are taking notes that will be filed away and used as story ideas at a later time.

The big danger occurs when PR people get excited that a reporter wants to visit and when the executives let their guard down and enter into too many friendly, candid conversations with the reporter.

Take a guess what everyone needs to do before participating in a desk side visit? You guessed it… they need to go through media training.

I have seen an enormous number of executives go to confession with reporters during desk side visits, only to see their own words come back to haunt them months later in a report they didn’t even know the reporter was writing. Do you remember what I said about going to confession in lesson 12? I said if you go to confession with a reporter you’ll go straight to hell.

So what should media training look like for a desk side visit?

First, the communications team needs to haul out all of the company’s key messages and dust them off to make sure they are current. Ideally, the communications team should have a deep library of key messages with more written each time a new issue arises.

Next, you need to segregate your key messages according to the 3 bucket rule that we discussed in lesson 12. That means you need to identify the key messages that you must to say, which is bucket number 1. Then in bucket number 2 you will find the answers, or key messages, that you will use only if you are asked about certain issues.  Then in bucket number 3 you will have things that you cannot talk about at all.

Because people have an overwhelming compulsion to be honest, many people immediately begin telling reporters negative things that are usually kept in bucket number 2. I call this “opening the door.” Once you open the door, you’ve invited the reporter to enter and ask you many more questions. You have in essence opened Pandora’s Box and closing it is nearly impossible.

Many executives assume that everything in a desk side visit is “off the record.” It is not. Everything is on the record. And for the sake of clarity, never ever think that anything is off the record with a reporter. In fact, if a reporter ever invites you to speak off the record, you should refuse to do so. What you say to the reporter will always get traced back to you.

Likewise, be aware of reporters who ask you to speak on “background.”  This means they want you to tell them facts, but they promise not to quote you or attribute the facts to you. Again, the people you are talking about will be able to figure out that it was you who was trashing them.

When done correctly, a desk side visit can be a great way to create a positive perception about you and your company. In lesson 13 we talked about passing the vote of confidence or no confidence with a reporter. A desk side visit is a great way to pass the test of confidence.

Finally, if the desk side visit goes well, key executives may want to call the reporter from time to time to share tips about trends in your industry. Their purpose should never be to have the reporter write about you or your organization, but to establish yourself as a trusted expert and source. Your goal is also to establish a true relationship with a reporter. That’s why, after all, they call it media relations.

Ultimately, that relationship will pay off in the future and make it much harder for the reporter to write scathing or negative stories about you or your organization. There is a lot to be said for relationships.

In summary, a desk side visit could be your worst nightmare or it could turn out to be your best friend

In our next lesson we’ll examine how you can best internalize all those key messages we’ve been talking about.

Lesson 18: Practicing for the Big Negative News Story

By Gerard Braud

So far we’ve discussed what an ordinary media training program includes and we’ve discussed the need to practice before every interview. But if you are being interviewed about a negative issue by an investigative reporter or a major publication or network news magazine, you need more than your average media training and quick practice session. You need to prepare as though you are going to war.

There are two main steps you need to take:

• Your PR or communications team needs to become the investigative reporter

• You need to train until you know the answer to every question.

Let me explain what I mean.

When I’m asked to prepare someone for such an interview, we usually have one to two weeks to prepare. Major publications and networks often spend weeks and months working on a story.

Preparation includes numerous phone calls with the reporter or producer to find out exactly what their story is about and what they want to know.  Reporters are very coy and really don’t want to tell you too much about the story. Ideally, they want to catch you off guard because they think you will be more honest if they catch you unprepared. In most cases reporters are very vague.

If you are a retailer, for example, the reporter may tell you they are doing a story about computers, when really the story centers on allegations of questionable behavior by your computer sales team. If you are with a non-profit, they may tell you the story is about donations and how the money is used, when the real story is about high executive compensation and justifying a 6 figure salary funded by donations. If you are with a government agency, the reporter may tell you the story is about helping tax payers, when the real story is about a long list of tax payer complaints.

The first rule you should apply is to look in the mirror and to realize that the good Lord gave you 2 ears and 1 mouth and that you should use them in that proportion. In other words, you should be asking the reporters more questions than you answer. You need to learn to ask them probing questions about the possible report, then stop talking and start listening. Listen for not just what they say, but what they don’t say. You must become an expert in reading between the lines.

Among the questions you should ask are:

• Tell me a little about the genesis of the story?

• Is the story about something that we do well or something that you think we could do better?

• Ultimately, what do you want your audience to take away from the story?

• Who else have you talked to?

• What have those people told you so far?

I have a total of 3 pages of questions like these that I provide privately to my clients. It would be a disservice to print them here and tip our hand to the media.

After you ask the question, sit back and listen. Too many people think they need to do all the talking when dealing with a reporter. In this case, you want the reporter to do all the talking. And on the topic of talking, be aware that even though you may be doing advance work for the primary spokesperson, everything you say can be used in the final news report.

After doing exhaustive questioning of the reporter, the next step is for you to write the story the way you think the reporter would write the story at this very moment in time, based on what they said and didn’t say. Be brutally honest, cynical and sarcastic as you write the story. Next, share the story with your executive team to get their attention and commitment to do whatever it takes to fight the good fight, including more research by a team of people, designating a spokesperson, and a full commitment from the spokesperson to clear his or her calendar for media training.

With the executive team you should then pick apart the story to separate fact from fiction and perception from reality. Quickly identify where the reporter is off base in his or her assumptions. Identify the source of the story and what you know about the person or persons who may have given the story idea to the reporter, as well as what you know about the other people the reporter has already interviewed.

Next, develop a long list of questions that you think the reporter might ask. Do not be kind in crafting these questions. Make them very direct.

After that you’ll need to research the true answers to each question, gather background material to support your position, then begin writing answers to every question. The answers must all be quotable and written in the key message tree style that I described in lesson 9.

Media training for this type of interview may take 1 or 2 days. Generally such training will include a 45 minute role playing interview recorded on video, followed by an extensive critique and then more long interviews. This goes on non-stop until we’ve flushed out every question and until the spokesperson has perfected every answer. Remember, this is serious stuff that could affect your business and your bottom line.

Often I run into cynics who say you can’t possibly know every question you’ll be asked, nor can you know all the answers. I beg to differ with them. I have and you can.  In fact, the greatest compliment I get from clients after their interview is, “Gerard, you nailed it.”

You can nail it too.

If you get in a jam, you can always send an e-mail to me and track me down at

In our next lesson we’ll examine media training for a desk side visit.