Don’t Repeat the Negative – Media Training Expert Tips

You would think that in 2010, spokespeople would be smart enough not to repeat a negative phrase as part of an interview or as a phrase in an advertising campaign. Surprisingly, it still goes on.

This month, the country of Colombia has launched a new tourism campaign. So what do you think of when you think of Columbia? Do you think about the risk of cocaine drug lords, the risk of hostage taking and killings? Do you think about how you might be risking your life if you travel there?

The new Colombian tourism ads use the word “risk.” It’s a nice try at a play on words, but someone should fire the agency that agreed to write and produce these spots.

The commercials are beautiful and enticing on their own. But as soon as you hear the phrase “risk,” it makes you remember the danger, and causes you to second guess any notion of falling in love with the enticing images of the commercial.

This latest example comes on the heels of Christine O’Donnell’s failed run for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. After announcing on cable TV that she dabbled in witchcraft, she tried to defend her candidacy by repeating the phrase, “I’m not a witch” in countless interviews and even used it as the opening phrase in her TV commercials. Dumb, dumb, dumb. If you do a Google search for “I’m not a witch,” O’Donnell comes up several million times.

The rule is, you never repeat a negative word or phrase. As you prepare for your next interview or media training class, purge your answers of the negatives and learn how to answer questions without adding negative phrases.

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Executive Media Training – Gerard Braud – New Orleans Saints – Super Bowl Parade

In the Executive Media Training classes I teach, I always emphasize the power of a verbatim quote as a key message, rather than relying on talking points and the ad lib problems associated with talking points. So to prove the power of a pre-planned, verbatim quote, I recently set out to literally be the one-in-a-million quote.

My beloved New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Hence, a Super Bowl parade was planned and one million people turned out to watch. As my daughter and I drove into the city that day, we saw the media gathering to cover the euphoria. So I told her, “I think dad needs to be on the front page in the morning.”

She gave that uneasy laugh, knowing I’m a man of my word and knowing I’m always willing to do something extreme to make a point. Finally she asked, “So what’s your quote going to be.”

I replied, “We’ve suffered the American nightmare… no… we’ve endured the American nightmare… it’s our turn to… no… it’s our time to share in the American dream.”

She laughed. Several hours later while waiting for the parade to begin I saw a reporter I know. I called him over and asked if he needed a quote for his story. He rolled his eyes, then asked, “What is it?” as though he expected something lame.

“We’ve endured the American nightmare. It’s our time to share in the American dream.” Read more

Executive Media Training 101 for Kanye West

by Gerard Braud

Kanye West — You were on Jay Leno last night. Your had a chance. You blew it. So here’s a free Media Training 101 course — Your key message should have been, “I’m sorry.” In 3 minutes on the air you never got around to saying those simple words. It should have been the first words out of your mouth.

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Misinformation Alert: Media Training & Crisis Communications Plans, NIMS, Emergency Communications & More from Gerard Braud

Big warning on the BraudCast today.
Big warning as we commemorate September 11th.
Big warning as we remember August 29th, the recent anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
Big warning as your kids go back to school.
Big warning for all executives.
Big warning for everyone in public relations.

Why all the warnings?

After September 11th and Hurricane Katrina the Federal government launched a massive emergency communications effort. However, these efforts have little, or anything, to do with PR people communicating with the media, employees and other key stakeholders.

The reason I issue the warning is that many schools, government agencies, hospitals and companies are not doing what they are supposed to be doing… and many executives, government leaders, hospital administrators and school leaders think they now have all the communications tools they need.

They are so wrong.

All of these emergency communications efforts deal with the radio systems that allow first responders to talk with one another during a crisis. RADIO SYSTEMS.

They have nothing to do with communicating the written and spoken word with your core audiences.

Many school systems and many law enforcement agencies around the country spent the summer rolling out what are known as NIMS Emergency Plans. In the program, government buildings and school buildings have all been given special numbers to identify them during an emergency.

One PR person recently told me her boss said he no longer needed Media Training because if there was a disaster, the FBI would be their spokesperson. Another executive stopped a PR department from working on their Crisis Communications Plan because they were part of the new Federal Emergency Communications System.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

It frightens me what executives know, what they think they know, what they don’t know, and what they don’t know they don’t know.

For clarification, yes, executives and administrators still need Media Training because in a crisis, they still need to talk to the media, employees and other key audiences. In schools, that means the training needs to include talking with students, parents, faculty and staff. In a hospital it means talking with patients and their families. In a company it means talking with customers as well as the media and employees.

If your event involves first responders, they DO NOT become your spokesperson. Their interest is different than your interest. If a Joint Information Command is set up for news conferences, your spokespeople talk about what you know, while the responders and law enforcement talk about what they know.

Additionally, every organization needs its own Crisis Communications Plan in addition to any NIMS plan, Incident Command plan or Emergency Operations Plan. Those plans ONLY coordinate responders arriving in a timely manner and talking to one another through secure radio systems. They DO NOT include instructions for your written and spoken communications to your audiences. They DO NOT include all of the dozens of pre-written news releases that your crisis communications plan should contain.

I’ve posted new resources in the definitions section of 2 websites, including: and

Please forward these to your leadership to educate them.
Please forward the link to the podcast to educate them.

As you can tell, I’m passionate about this and I’m concerned about the misinformation and misconceptions that is out there. Your own Media Training and your own Crisis Communications Plan can save lives through communications prior to a natural disaster, such as communicating evacuations for a hurricane… and during a crisis, such as a school shooting or workplace violence event. You would be using your written and spoken communications skills long before first responders even get involved, while responders are on the scene, and long after they have left the scene.

Here’s today’s call to action. Meet with your leaders and discuss this with them. If your leadership won’t listen to you, I’ll be happy to talk with and explain it. I’m also happy to speak to any association conventions where your leaders may be in the audience. As PR professionals we need to stick together on this and educate our leaders and executives. I’ve updated my website at with a new keynote called Leadership When “It” Hits the Fan, specifically designed to address some of these issues.

Let’s work on this together. After all, it is our job as strategic communications professionals.

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