Media Training Coach Tip: The #1 Technique to Shut Down Reporter Speculation

As a media training speaker and media training coach, my clients can sometimes find themselves asking, “What’s the worst that could happen? How much worse could it get? But what if…?”Braud Communications media training tip

Oh, those great “what if” questions – reporters love those.  Why?  Well, reporters love a great story and sometimes the story doesn’t materialize the way they hoped it would.

Such questions indicate that the reporter is as disappointed as a 4-year-old who was hoping you would stop to buy them ice cream, but you didn’t.  Beware of reporters who ask you to speculate, because you are heading into very dangerous territory. If you do speculate, you’ve made the story bigger than what it is.

The most important phrase you can use when addressing such questions is to say, “I couldn’t speculate on that, but what I can tell you is…”  Another variation of that answer is to say, “It would be inappropriate for me to speculate on that, but what I can tell you is…”

In my media training work, I often recommend that when you’re asked to speculate, apply the Block, Bridge and Hook Technique:

  • Block: “It would be inappropriate for me to speculate…”
  • Bridge: “But what I can tell you is…”
  • Hook: Redirect the reporter back to one of your key messages and one of the facts that you have previously confirmed.

Ideally, you should create an additional hook that keeps the reporter from asking another speculative question as a follow up. But the most important thing that you are doing is immediately putting an end to the speculation and sticking to the facts.

Use the Block, Bridge and Hook Technique when a reporter asks you to speak for someone else.  The block response should be, “I can’t speak for them, but what I can tell you is…”

One more media training lesson we should address here is how to handle the reporter that misstates certain key facts in their question.  It has been my experience that most spokespeople try to gingerly work their way back to a key message and then correct facts without ever clearly telling the reporter they are wrong. Well my friends, that seldom works.

If a reporter misstates a fact in their question you have permission to stop them dead in their tracks if necessary and say, “I’m sorry, but you misstated a key fact in your question.” At that time you should give them the correct fact. Another variation is to use the phrase, “I can’t agree with the premise of your questions.”

Over the years many spokespeople have confessed to me that they are afraid that such an approach could be perceived by the reporter as hostile. I personally think you can do it without being hostile.

In fact, I have found that the dynamics of the interview or news conference will change in your favor because the reporter sees that you are in charge and that you are holding them accountable. The reporter will not only choose their words more carefully in the remainder of the interview, but they will also choose their words more carefully when writing their script.

Final media training tip: In the end, you must realize that YOU are in charge of the interview. Don’t relinquish control to the reporter. Tell your story your way and you win!

Media Training of the Future for Your Emergency Operations Center, Emergency Manager, and Public Information Officer

How to Improve Your Crisis Communication During a Disaster

It was a surprise to many Emergency Managers and Public Information Officers. After being in demand for telephone interviews during Tropical Storm Lee on September 3-5, 2011 near New Orleans, The Weather Channel opted to start taking live reports from a resident on the front porch of his home on Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, LA. In some instances, the live reports from this citizen were more compelling and ran higher in the broadcast than The Weather Channel’s own reporter in New Orleans.

That resident is Gerard Braud (Jared Bro). Yes, I’m that Gerard Braud — a former storm chaser and television reporter turned media trainer and crisis communications trainer.

So how and why did the Weather Channel select me. Well, I knew I was seeing something more compelling than anyone else was offering to the network and my journalistic instincts kicked in. I could show images of waves crashing out of Lake Pontchartrain, flooding streets and yards.

I was also able to use the newest technology to bring viewers across the nation directly into the rising floodwaters, while Emergency Managers and Public Information Offices were locked inside Emergency Operations Centers using old technology, otherwise known as the telephone.Braud Communications Plan Flood

Every Emergency Manger and Public Information Officer needs to recognize times are changing and they must change with those times. They must adopt a combination of new Media Training techniques that also teach how to use new technology such as iPhones, iPads and Skype software, in order to report live on the scene for the media.

If you would like to learn more, please download this article that explains how Emergency Managers, Emergency Operations Centers and Public Information Officers can master this new technology as part of their Crisis Communications Plan.

Social Media Revolutions & How to Write a Social Media Policy

How to Write Your Social Media Policy
March 1st Webinar

Plus the Social Media Revolution – What You Can Learn from Global Events

The time is NOW. Social Media is changing nations. But are you watching from the sidelines or digging in and learning how this affects your communications where you work and with your audience. For all the benefits of Social Media, there is an ugly flip side most people won’t talk about, or fail to recognize, or turn a blind eye to. I’m ready to talk about it.

Join me March 1st for a powerful teleseminar that will cover 2 aspects of the dangers of Social Media. First, learn how to write a Social Media policy that is perfect for your company.  Then we discuss the impact of Social Media during a Crisis, what your leaders don’t understand about Social Media, and what you need to be aware of from this day forward.

Join us for this thought provoking webinar.

Just $79 for your entire team to listen and learn.

Register with this link

Top 3 Goals for Communicators in 2011

When we look back at the last year and look ahead to this year, I see 3 things that every communicator should do in order to be successful.

The 3 things are:

1) Be strategic

2) Be opportunistic, and

3) Be Persistent

When communicators ask for advice, I often tell them to know the difference between your job and your purpose.

Why is this important? Because everything you do in your job each day should lead you in the direction of your strategic purpose. If it doesn’t lead to your strategic purpose, you shouldn’t be doing it.

One of the best corporate communications departments I’ve ever seen was at Best Buy. For a short time I stepped in as a Vice President and got to see the machine at work.

Each year the team built its strategic communications plans around the company’s strategies for customer service, employee relations, and corporate growth. Hence, all communications was built toward those goals.

Inevitably, during the year, people would rush in asking us to crank out a news release for something they thought was special. My sarcastic reply was, “ask them if they want a burger, fries and large drink with that news release.” In other words, we were not order takers, cranking out releases on demand. We were strategists who helped achieve corporate goals through communications.  We had a plan and we were sticking to it. We were not publicists.

So, #1 is, be strategic. Your job is not to take orders to write news releases. Your job is to know your strategic purpose and communicate toward that purpose.

# 2 is to be opportunistic.  Every year communicators want advice on “how to get a seat at the corporate table.” The answer is to always be opportunistic. So when something big happens in the news, that is the time to contact your leaders and ask for a meeting to discuss how a crisis might affect your company and what strategic communications tools need to be in place.

You’ll be shocked when you read this month’s article about a survey I conducted with IABC following the BP Oil Spill in 2010. It shows just how un-opportunistic communicators are.

For example, there was no better opportunity to get the time or money to write your crisis communications plan or to run your executives through media training, or to conduct a crisis drill, than during and after the BP oil spill. Yet, as you’ll see in the survey, most communicators missed the chance to be opportunistic and get a seat at the table to review long term crisis strategies, strategies that should be part of your annual communications plan.

Most people fail to realize that the crisis communications plan you wrote last year is obsolete or out of date if you don’t update it this year. And your spokespeople will perform as poorly as Tony Hayward if they don’t strategically set aside time in their schedule for media training, at least once a year.

Many communicators think some day they will be magically invited to take a seat at the corporate table. Don’t hold your breath. The only way to get a seat at the table is to be opportunistic and take it. Take the opportunity to show your leader you are looking out for them. Take the opportunity to let them see your face, hear your thoughts and realize you are a strategic thinker and not just an order taker. There are more tips in the article.

And #3 is to be persistent. Because of the recession, many people have had their budgets cut. But just because you are told “no” at the beginning of your calendar year or at the beginning of your budget year, doesn’t mean you can’t go back and ask for funds again later in the year, provided you have a good reason.  For example, if you are told at the beginning of your year that you can’t have funds for media training or a crisis communications plan or drill, go back and ask again while a big crisis is in the news. You see… this ties back to being strategic… and being opportunistic. Wise communicators who do this tell me their bosses almost always free up special funds for special training. Likewise, many CEOs have told me “no” doesn’t mean “no” forever. It only means “no” for right now, under the current conditions with the current reasons.

If you have questions about implementing these strategies, just give me a call at 985-624-9976 and we can talk further.

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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

Leadership and Crisis Communications – Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010

This is our 5th and final day of looking back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem ourselves for 2010.

Today we’ll look at what leaders don’t know.

In 2009 I launched a new keynote called, Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan. It has placed me on the stage in front of a growing list of associations and audiences of CEOs, VPs and managers.

And as much as I bashed Social Media yesterday for being a shiny new object, the fact is, that shiny new object can have serious negative consequences for a company, especially when things go wrong.

It always disturbs me during my keynote, as I enter a dialogue with the leaders, to learn exactly what they know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t know they don’t know.

During a crisis I live by a cardinal rule to communicate quickly with the media, your employees and other key stakeholders. My goal is to make sure a company issues a public statement within the first hour that a crisis has gone public.

Leaders, meanwhile, often fall into decision paralysis. As a result, they make no decision because they fear they will make the wrong decision. They wait to have all the facts before they say anything at all.

The biggest thing leaders don’t know, going into 2010, is how fast the world of Social Media moves. Leaders are oblivious to the fact that while they are in their crisis command center, deciding if they should issue a statement, their employees, customers and the public are posting comments, pictures and videos to the web at lightening fast speed.

During my keynote, I ask the leaders how many of them have used the most popular forms of social media.

• When asked how many use, 10% – 20% usually say yes. Read more

Tweet Heard ‘Round the World – Crisis Communications & Social Media

January 15, 2009 generated the Tweet Heard ‘Round the World, as a TwitPic became the first official news coverage of an airplane landing in the Hudson River.

We’ll discuss this game changer and the changing face of crisis communications in a special teleseminar called, “Social Media When It Hits the Fan.”

Please register now.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

11 a.m. CST

Registration $99

($79 for BraudCast subscribers with discount code)

(FREE to Braud Crisis Communications Plan users with discount code)

Warning: I’m very harsh on how Social Media is used as an outgoing communications tool. I’ll also dig deep into what your leaders don’t understand about Social Media’s negative impact in a crisis.

Who should attend: Public Relations & Communications Teams, Risk Managers, Emergency Operations Teams, Human Resource Teams, Security Teams

Suggestion: Listen as a team, then schedule a one hour meeting of your teams to discuss what you heard and how it will change your internal and external procedures.

Social Media Crisis Communications & Shiny New Objects – Sins of 2009

Today we’re going to look at one of the biggest sins of 2009… shiny new objects syndrome.

When I look back at 2009, I’ll remember it as the year that people became obsessed with Twitter and Facebook. Seems everywhere I turned, people were clamoring over these shinny new objects… like aborigines who have seen themselves in a mirror for the first time.

The obsession with these tools is perplexing for me, because I know some people truly enjoy them… while others have jumped on the bandwagon because they fear being left behind. It’s a classic version of trying to keep up with the Jones.

The sad reality, is that while many people were chasing after the shinny new objects, they took their eye off the ball; they lost track of priorities, especially in the field of communications.

All communications is about what you want the other person to know and how you want them to respond to that communications. There are many tools that can help you achieve this goal, but too many people in communications have tried to force fit Social Media not only into their tool kit, but to make it paramount as a communications tools.

I think that is a bad idea. Social media reflects a huge generational gap between those under 30 who use it often and those older than 30 who have never used or seen a social media site.

While they tools have their benefits for maintaining certain relationships, they are often a force fit in a corporate culture. Sure, frantic fans of a movie star may want to track their every move on Twitter, but do customers of a chemical company really need to follow your Tweets…and do you really think that I want to follow your Facebook fan page? Not likely.

The reality is, as a communications platform, Social Media sites are unreliable and vulnerable to hacking. There are still many other forms of communications in your tool chest that are more reliable and are better for reaching your loyal audience.

So if shiny new object syndrome was your sin in 2009, as we enter 2010, your redemption would be to make an effort to not get distracted by what is shinny and new, but to use it only when it is a good fit and the right fit…not a force fit.

I get asked about using Social Media a lot as a crisis communications tool, so on January 19th at 11 a.m. CST, I’ll host a special telemseminar called, Social Media When “It” Hits the Fan. If this is a topic that impacts your and your team, I invite you to sign up. We’ll look at examples of when Social Media has worked well and when it has been a huge failure.

Tomorrow, we’ll wrap up the week with a look at what leaders don’t know and how it impacts your job.


1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link

Gerard Braud – Being Opportunistic – PR Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010

As we look back at the sins of 2009 and ways to redeem yourself in 2010, today’s lesson is about how to be opportunistic.

Opportunistic means you take advantage of a situation to get what you want. Maybe it is because I grew up in a large family and had to fight my 3 older brothers and a younger sister for everything I got, but being opportunistic has served me well in life.

Being opportunistic means that when you observe a situation, you use the power of persuasion, supported by a business case, to convince your boss to let you do what needs to be done, even if you’ve previously been told “no,” as we discussed yesterday.

You can apply this technique to many of your communications needs, but since I write crisis communications plans and teach media training, I’ll share with you a real life example of a HUGE opportunity that passed many people by in 2009.

Every year I get a wave of inquiries from people who want me to help them write their crisis communications plan, and most want a package, complete with a crisis communications drill and train their spokespeople. Many of the inquiries come this time of year because so many people these items on a list of goals and tasks to complete for the coming years. But many of those plans didn’t get written in 2009 because people were told “no, there’s no money in the budget.”

Then in April 2009, the Swine Flu epidemic began. This crisis presented a huge opportunity for you to go back to your boss, paint a grim picture, explain the potential negative impact the Swine Flu could have on your businesses, and get the funding you need.

Another way to be opportunistic is to get help from other departments. Pandemics are a huge concern for risk managers and human resource managers. In every risk management and human resources seminar, there are classes that focus on dealing with pandemics. This is a big issue for them. That means that if you are opportunistic, you can partner with those other managers to convince leadership that a crisis communications plan is an important element of risk management and employee communications.

Most of you who subscribe to the BraudCast are in internal communications, external communications, media relations, PR and marketing. And many folks in these fields are, by their very nature timid, and often take “no” as a final answer. I’d suggest that for 2010 you set as one of your goals to become opportunistic.

Look at it this way… In the case of the Swine Flu, workers would get sick, workers might die, productivity, production and sales could suffer… and you’d be called upon, likely at the last minute, to start crafting both a strategy and messages to deal with the impending crisis. That’s not really fair to you, is it? Especially if there is a solution, namely a pre-written crisis communications plan with pre-written templates. And if you already have a plan, you know it needs to update and tested. I have one client who is so opportunistic that I help him conduct 4 crisis communications drills every year.

So if you know in your heart that being prepared is the right thing to do professionally… then the answer is, being opportunistic is also the right thing to do professionally. If you achieve your goal and still do it legally and ethically, there is nothing wrong with being opportunistic.

Timing is critical when you are trying to be opportunistic. You have to be ready build a business case immediately after a crisis begins and present it to leadership while the crisis is still fresh in their minds. It doesn’t matter if the crisis is where you work or if it is a high profile crisis in the news. I can tell you from experience that each day that you get further from the crisis, the more likely leadership is to forget the trauma and devalue your proposal.

If your 2009 sin was a missed opportunity, your redemption in 2010 is setting a goal to be more opportunistic.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about Shinny New Objects.


1) If you’d like to sign up FREE for the audio version of this, known as the BraudCast, click here.

2) For a FREE sample listen, this is your link.

3) Sign up for the upcoming teleseminar “Social Media When It Hits the Fan.”

Gerard Braud – The Sins of 2009 & How to Redeem Yourself in 2010 – Tuesday

This week we’re looking at the Sins of 2009 and how to redeem yourself in 2010.

Today’s topic is “No” Doesn’t Mean “No!”

2009 was a year when we heard “no” a lot at work. Request for new projects, new training, new budgets, were often greeted with a big fat, flat out “no.”

A colleague told me she got in trouble recently because something important fell through the cracks in the communications department. Her boss chewed her out. The executed wanted to know why she was ill prepared to address the situation. The employee replied, “I gave you a budget request for that in January and you personally told me there was no money an not to ask again until 2010.”

Upon reflection, the executive said, “for something this critical, we can find the money.”

In other word, “no” doesn’t really mean “no.” No simply means that you haven’t built a good enough business case in order to get your boss to say yes. No means that you have not been able to demonstrate that spending money in one area can increase profits, productivity and sales in another area. It means other people and other departments have done a better job of explaining why their spending needs deserve a higher priority.

Monday we talked about scarcity mentality. This example certain relates to that category. Many of have put major projects and training on hold because you were told no previously and you haven’t gone back to get your Yes. And the only way to get your yes is with a business case that is built around protecting and building the company’s profits.

Sometimes getting the yes requires being clever or creative.

Several of my clients who really want me to do their media training or help with their crisis communications plans never got the training they wanted in 2009, because their bosses said there was no money for travel? They heard “no” and stopped dead in their tracks. Really, you have training dollars but no dollars for travel? I’m pretty sure I can come up with a creative way to mitigate or eliminate the travel costs. Maybe the answer is that we do the program by Skype with web cameras. I can probably even find a creative way to squeeze another executive into the training class at no charge. That way, you can look like you struck a good deal. With creativity, I could make them look good… but they never asked. They heard “no” and thought it meant no.

If your sin in 2009 was taking “no” for an answer, your redemption in 2010 is to ask again until you get a yes. The path to yes is by building a business case.

One other way to get around “no” is by being opportunistic. We’ll look at that lesson on Wednesday.

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