BraudCast Answer: How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?

By Gerard Braud

Some communicators are still trying to make a case to their executives to use social media for their organization.  They may be trying to persuade their senior level executives or their board members that social media is not just a form of outbound marketing, but it can be used strategically for crisis communications and media relations. This week the BraudCast question was, “How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?” Watch the video to hear how your colleagues answered.


Click image to watch

Click image to watch


This question is one of a series of debates in the media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media industries where you and your colleagues can share observations with each other. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

BraudCast Question: How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?

By Gerard Braud

This week the BraudCast question is, “How do you get your executives to buy into the concept of using social media if your organization is not yet using it?” Your executives may be more traditional in their communication skills. They may be hesitant about opening their organization up to harsh criticism online, or they may not quite understand the purpose of social media. How do you persuade them about the communications and media relations opportunities that social media can provide for them?

execs social media gerard braud

Click image to watch



This question is one of a series of debates in the media relations, crisis communications, public relations, and social media industries where you and your colleagues can share observations with each other. Yes, YOU are invited to share your bite size bits of best practices. Here is how:

Step 1: Subscribe to The BraudCast on YouTube

Step 2: You will see a short video that poses a new question every Monday. You then post your best practices and observations on The BraudCast YouTube channel.

3: Once your opinion is shared, you can follow the discussion online so you can compare your best practices to those of your professional colleagues.

Step 4: Watch the Follow up Friday Video where you will see a short YouTube video outlining some of the most interesting observations. Yes…your comments may actually show up on our BraudCast video, bringing you world-wide fame, fortune, a big raise, glory, street parades, and more.

Thanks in advance for sharing your knowledge. Please take 2 seconds now to subscribe to The BraudCast.

Tutorial #14 How to Frame Your Crisis Communications Videos Properly

Tutorial #14 By Gerard Braud

Crisis communications videos are rarely created by corporate spokespeople, government officials, emergency managers, or public information officers (PIO). However, they are an extremely effective way to communicate with your audiences in a crisis. You can be the official spokesperson and speak directly to the media about your crisis, rather than an eyewitness on the street who could be speculating or blowing your issue out of proportion. To create a quality video there are many variables, including how you frame yourself on camera.

Click image to watch video

Click image to watch video

Think about your vacation photos and videos. When you are in the image, do you see just a little of you and a lot of other stuff around you? Is your head in the middle of the picture, with your body at the bottom, and a bunch of sky above your head?

If so, you are likely not framing your images properly.

Photographers and videographers generally practice what is known as the rule of thirds. Photographers, especially when framing an individual in a photo or video, leave no space for sky above your head. Your hair or forehead fills the top of the frame. Your nose generally fills the center third. Your chin and neck would then fill the bottom third.

While this addresses the horizontal elements of your image, you must also consider the vertical portions of what you have framed. Often, you fill the left or right third of the frame, leaving the other two-thirds as positive space to your left or right.

Much of the poor framing we see today is the result of an entire generation of people using digital cameras. Because the yellow focus square in the viewfinder is in the middle of the viewfinder, most people stand far away from the person in the photo, then frame their head in the focus square. This is horrible. Stop doing it.

Step forward and get closer to the person whose photo you wish to take, then frame it as I have described above.

This is best understood by watching today’s tutorial video.

As with all of these video skills, you must practice in order to get it right. So after viewing the tutorial, take out your smart phone or tablet and record a video. You can also go home to your computer and look at some of your old photos. You’ll likely see that you’ve been framing pictures incorrectly for a long time… but soon you’ll be doing it right every time.

This link will take you to my tutorials on the CNN iReporter website. I hope you take the time to view, study, and share all 23 videos and articles

This link will take you to the index for all of the articles and videos.

If you, like many others, think this information would be valuable as a workshop at a conference or corporate meeting, please call me at 985-624-9976. You can also download a PDF that outlines the program, Social Media iReports.pdf so you can share it with your meeting planner or training manager.




When “It Hits the Fan: Effective Communications for Critical Times

By Gerard Braud

The need for crisis communication has never been greater. The need for speed in crisis communications has never been greater.

Williams ExplosionThe reality is that if you experience an incident that the public knows about, you should be communicating to them about it in one hour or less. The biggest problem with this one hour benchmark is that in a world with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, that is still 59 minutes too long.

Look at this photograph. What do you see? Yes, those are workers running from a fireball as it is still rising. What else do you notice? Yes, when everyone should be moving toward safety someone stopped to snap a picture with a cell phone.

This event eventually claimed two lives and resulted in more than 100 reported injuries.

Williams FB pageWithin minutes of the photo being taken, workers built a complete Facebook page about the event. Meanwhile, the company took nearly three hours to issue the first news release. Other than the time of the event, there was nothing in that statement that was newsworthy or that could not have been written and approved three years before the event. It was boiler plate language. By the time it was released, the media and the public already knew every detail.

When “it” hits the fan in the age of social media, you have the option to control the flow of accurate information by releasing details faster than ever before. If you fail to do this you surrender control of the story to the general public, who may or may not have accurate information.

Granted, human resources needs to communicate with the families of the dead and injured. Granted, lawyers will want to avoid giving ammunition to the plaintiff’s attorney in your statement. Granted, facts need to be gathered by the home office. Granted, state police are acting as the primary spokespeople under a NIMS agreement.

But will you also grant this? The photo on Facebook and the Facebook page are providing more information to the public, the media, and plaintiff’s attorney than the official source is. And NIMS can provide a law officer to discuss evacuations, but a state trooper cannot express the necessary empathy that families need to hear, nor can they communicate the contrition that a community needs to hear.

What should you do? How can you get the upper hand?

Step one is to have an effective crisis communications plan that facilitates the fast gathering of information about any incident, combined with the fast dissemination of the details to key decision makers.

Step two is to have a “First Critical Statement” document in your crisis communications plan. The First Critical Statement is a fill-in-the-blank document that can be modified in five minutes and then posted to your corporate website, emailed to all employees, emailed to all media, read to the media at a news conference if needed, and also used as a link on your corporate social media sites.

(Get a free sample and use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN)

Step three is to write a library of pre-written news releases with a more in depth system of fill-in-the-blank and multiple-choice options. Such news releases can be written on a clear sunny day, months or years before you will ever need to use them. The goal of the document is to answer every question you might be asked about a specific incident – ranging from fires and explosions, to workplace violence, to executive misbehavior. The pre-written nature of the release allows your leaders and legal teams to proofread the templates and pre-approve them. This saves time on the day of your incident. Usually, the pre-written document can be edited within ten minutes and approved nearly as fast. Once it is ready to use, it can be your script for a news conference, a post to your corporate website, an e-mail to all media and employees, plus a link on social media.

Check your calendar: It’s 2015. Check your computer and smartphone: Social media amplifies everything the public sees or thinks. Check your decision-making: It is time for you to have a modernized fast moving crisis communications plan.

The bottom line is that your reputation and revenue depend upon it.

How to Select the Right Spokesperson? Should it be the PR person?

CrisisDrillGerardBraudWho should be your media spokesperson in a crisis?

In a recent blog, we reviewed Argument #1: The CEO Should Always Be the Spokesperson.

Now we can review Argument #2: When Should the PR Person Be the Spokesperson?

The public relations person is an excellent choice as a spokesperson in the first hour of the crisis when media might be just arriving. But your PR guy or gal doesn’t need to be the spokesperson throughout an entire crisis, nor would I suggest they be your only long term spokesperson.

The best argument for using your public relations expert in the early hours of a crisis is because other members of the crisis management team are likely responding to and managing the crisis. Also, those other experts will rely on the PR team to provide them with the words, talking points, and key messages that need to be communicated.

In most cases, your public relations person has a natural gift for words, both spoken and written. These are usually natural gifts that other members of the crisis management team do not have. Usually the C-Suite is heavy on analytical thinkers who are better with numbers, facts, and figures than with words.

If you weigh your options and look at the variables, the senior member of your public relations team is a perfect first choice, especially when a spokesperson is needed in the first hour of the crisis.

Also, always make sure a PR person is on the crisis management team. Additionally, they should serve as leader of the crisis communications team.

Many companies are slow to communicate in a crisis because:

1) they wait until they know everything before they say anything

2) they are waiting for the CEO or a senior manager to free up long enough to speak

My best recommendation is that you should speak within the first hour of a crisis, even when only a few facts are known. You can tell the media what you know now and add more details later.  A “First Critical Statement” is the document that I use in every crisis communications plan I write. It should be in your crisis communications plan also. To download your free copy of my First Critical Statement, use the coupon code CRISISCOMPLAN when you select the item from my shopping cart.

When few facts are known, it allows the PR person to:

1) Acknowledge the crisis

2) Provide basic facts

3) Say something quotable, while promising more information at a future briefing

Our previous blog about speaking with one voice and relying on the CEO explains my belief that multiple spokespeople can speak on behalf of the company and SHOULD speak with one voice.

In our next blog on this topic, I’ll give you a third option as you decide how best to select the right spokesperson for your company.

By Gerard Braud

Did New York City Overreact? A Crisis Communications Case Study

junoYesterday’s crisis communications blog regarding the winter storm Juno and the #Blizzardof2015 promoted the idea of managing the expectations of those who will be affected by a crisis.

Today, some critics are saying New York City overreacted.

Two observations:

1) The people who complain about “overreacting” are idiots. These would be the same people who would criticize their leaders if things had gotten worse than predicted.

2) One way to proactively address the potential critics during your initial media statement before the storm is to use language like this:

Experts tell us this may be the worse storm we have ever faced. As a city (community) we believe the best course of action is to err on the side of caution, rather than to have anyone get hurt or put in harms way. We are putting safety measures in place based on the best information we are getting from experts at this hour. However, ultimately mother nature is in charge. Sometimes she sends us weather worse than we expected; sometimes it is not as bad as we expected. For that reason, we ask your forgiveness and understanding in advance, if we institute safeguards and ultimately those safeguards are not needed. However, at this time, the best information we have indicates that we should shut down the city…

I’ve noticed several government officials on the news already defending their position, as they should. One governor pointed out how few accidents took place in his state. New York City quickly re-opened this morning after being shut down. Meanwhile, locations in New England are getting slammed, as predicted.

As I’ve learned as a storm chaser in pursuit of hurricanes, the slightest change in tracts means the difference between safety and disaster. If the eye of the storm moves just 10 miles off of the predicted tract, it makes a huge difference.

The bottom line is communicate often and communicate forcefully. Communicate before the event, during the event, and after the event.

By Gerard Braud

Media Training 28: Speaking Off the Record

By Gerard Braud

Never agree to speak off the record.

This lesson really could end with just that phrase: Never speak off the record.

Speaking off the record has been taboo among the wisest media trainers and public relations sages for decades, but rarely do I teach a media training class in which I don’t get asked if it is okay to speak off of the record. Furthermore, the question is usually asked by someone who thinks speaking off of the record is a good idea.

Let’s go back to 7th grade. Johnny likes Suzie. Johnny confesses to Suzie’s best friend, Mary, that he likes Suzie. Johnny admonishes Mary not to tell anyone. Within an hour the entire 7th grade class knows Johnny likes Suzie.

Now that you are an adult, do you think the rules and practices of confidentiality have changed? They have not.

Speaking off of the record is triggered by either an incentive from the spokesperson or a suggestion from the reporter. It usually happens when the interview reaches an impasse because the spokesperson knows that if he says more, his comments will compromise a relationship or expose confidential information. Sometimes the spokesperson would like the information to be known publicly, but not be associated with him.

When the discussion reaches an impasse, the reporter might suggest, “Would you be willing to tell me off the record?” Sometimes the spokesperson might initiate the agreement by suggesting, “If I tell you, can we keep it off the record?”

The inference is that once spoken, the reporter will simply sit on the information as though it helps paint a clearer picture of what is perhaps an incomplete story. Don’t believe it. Don’t do it.

A reporter will always, in some way, use the information. Perhaps in their report they’ll say, “confidential sources tell us,” then share the information. Anyone close to the topic can likely do enough deductive reasoning to trace the information back to you, which ultimately damages your reputation. Sometimes the reporter dangles your information in front of another source as an incentive to get the other source to say “on the record” what you would not say “off the record.” To me, it all adds up to bad ethics.

Some individuals will share information off the record as a way to get a reporter to attack an opponent or competitor. This often happens in politics and the corporate world. Again, to me it is bad ethics. If you have charges to level, say them for the entire world to hear and be prepared to back up what you say. If you can’t back it up, you shouldn’t be saying it.

Back in my days in journalism school at Louisiana Tech University, my mentors taught that as a reporter, if someone told you something off of the record, your only choice was to take that information to the grave with you. Using the information to pry information from someone else was unethical. Furthermore, we were taught that as reporters we should not ask anyone to go off the record, because someone else might tell us the same information “on the record.” If someone told us the same information on the record after we first went off the record with a prior source, the prior source might very well think we compromised his trust or confidence.

Speaking off the record creates a bevy of problems and sets the stage for a variety of ethical pitfalls, all of which can be avoided by always speaking only for the record.

Akin to speaking off the record is when a reporter will ask you to speak on background. This infers again that your comments will better help the reporter understand all of the facts, and in many ways infers the reporter will not quote you. It subtly implies confidentiality but really means the reporter will in fact use the information to garner more facts from another source.

I don’t like the vagueness of “speaking on background” and I would advise you to avoid this practice as well.

If you believe something and you have the proof to back it up, then say it. If you can’t prove it or support your position, then hold your tongue.

Let good ethics be your guide.

In our next lesson, I’ll tie up everything with some concluding thoughts.

Media Training 27: Body Language

By Gerard Braud

What you don’t say is often as important or more important than what you do say, when you are talking to a reporter. How you stand, how you act, how you fidget, how you move, how you stutter, how you sit, and where you look, all says a lot about you.

The easiest thing for a reporter to determine in an interview is that you are nervous. When I started my journalism career at the age of 20, I was five-feet-six-and-a-half-inches tall and 124 pounds soaking wet. I did not consider myself intimidating in the least. So why is it that learned people, such as doctors, lawyers, engineers and elected officials got so nervous? Why did they fidget so much? Why did the sweat on their brow line and on their upper lip?

Actions such as sweating are harder to control because they are a result of nervousness. However, if you follow all of the advise in this book, if you hire a good media training coach and if you practice on a regular basis, then your confidence will go up and your nervousness will go down.

Folding and crossing your arms across your chest in an interview is almost always a sign that you are hiding something. If you are crossing your arms because you are cold, a better alternative is to wear warmer clothing. Sales people have long known that a customer with crossed arms will not buy anything form you. In the world of journalism, crossed arms means you are closed off to the premise of the reporter’s question and that you likely are not going to volunteer any information. Your body language may cause the reporter to probe even deeper because they can tell you are trying to hide something. If you are on television, the audience at home will also see this body language and may judge you harshly or relish in your discomfort. Many at home will sense that the reporter has “gotcha.”

Your eyes are the proverbial window to your soul.  I suggest that in daily life you get in the habit of looking people directly in the eye and maintaining an appropriate level of honest eye contact. Traditionally we’re taught that looking someone in the eye is a sign of honestly. Conversely, someone with high anxiety caused by not telling the truth usually has difficulty looking another person in the eye. You’ve likely heard people called “shifty-eyed.” When your eyes shift from side to side it is an obvious sign of anxiety, discomfort, and begins to make the journalist think that you have something to hide. Behavior like this is a perfect example of why role playing with a video camera is so important during media training. You may shift your eyes all the time and never realize it until you see yourself on camera. Reviewing your interview on camera lets you observe the behavior, then lets you work to correct the behavior.

Whether you look up or down and whether you look left or right also says a lot about you and what you are verbalizing, including whether you are “making it up” as you go.

If a right handed person looks up to the right while answering a question, they are generally being creative in crafting their answer and it may be perceived as a lie. If that same right handed person looks up and to their left when answering your question, it is generally perceived that they are recalling actual facts and telling the truth. Looking up is generally associated with questions about things that actually happened, things you saw or people you know.

Looking to the side has some of the same perceptions and generally applies to questions about sounds and things you have heard. Looking down to the left and right is a great deal less about telling a lie and more about feelings and recalling things such as a smell, touch or taste.

A left handed person performs these acts in the opposite direction of a right handed person. One of the classic case studies is former President Bill Clinton, who is left handed. As he made his infamous statement, “I did not have sex with that woman, Miss Lewinsky,” he looked up and to the left, an indication that this lefty was a liar.

Other body language for lying includes touching your face, the tip of your nose, rubbing your eyes and covering your mouth. Essentially, these are all telltale signs that you are trying to hide something and hide, perhaps, behind your hand. Covering your mouth, for example, subtly says you don’t want me to see you tell a lie.

How you sit tells us a lot as well. As a rule, never sit in a chair that rocks and swivels. If you do, when you become nervous or uncomfortable, you will likely rock or swivel.

Never do an interview while sitting behind your desk. This is usually a place that is too comfortable and very intimate to you. As a result, you may speak perhaps too bluntly and openly because this is your comfort zone. You need to be honest, but being behind your desk may cause you to let your guard down. Instead of sitting behind your desk, pick two chairs in front of your desk.

Your posture while sitting says a lot. If you cup your hands behind your head, as well as if you lean back while doing this, it indicates that you perhaps feel superior to the person interviewing you. Akin to this, slouching in a chair during an interview could be an indication that you are cavalier, arrogant or feel superior to the interviewer. Many people who are described as “cocky” sit slouched or leaned back in their chairs. During my days on television, we affectionately called these people “cigar smokers” because they looked like the fat-cat, cigar smoking corporate executive made infamous in the black and white movies of the 1940s.

The position of your legs while you sit also says a lot. Women and men tend to have different sitting postures. Women who have been through some degree of etiquette training have been taught to place their feet on the floor and to cross one ankle behind the other. This is always a polished looked. Most women, when crossing their legs cross at the knee. The most common way women cross their legs might be called a scissors cross or inverted V cross, with the left foot pointed right and the right leg pointed left. From the knee, a woman’s feet spread like an inverted letter V. This cross is also generally accepted, but when nervous, most women begin to twist the ankle of the foot that is suspended above the floor. Some may even swing the suspended portion of the leg from their knee to their foot. The more nervous a woman is, the more the leg takes on the appearance of kicking.

Some women cross their legs at the knee, then wrap the upper foot behind their calf. This is a certain sign of being timid, embarrassed or lacking self-confidence. This is never an acceptable posture.

Somewhere between the ankle cross and the inverted V cross, is when a woman crosses her legs at the knees, but tilts both legs in the same direction. For example, if the upper leg is the right leg with the foot pointed toward the left, then the lower leg, which would be the left leg, would also have the foot to the left. In the world of etiquette, this type of leg cross is thought to be the more acceptable of the two ways women generally cross their legs, although etiquette purists say a woman should never cross her legs.

Also, when crossing their legs, women must also consider whether they are wearing pants or a skirt. If a skirt is worn, then the woman must also determine whether she is sending a message of sex appeal or sexiness. Some actresses and news anchors intentionally wear short skirts and sit in a posture designed to exude sex appeal. In the world of television and entertainment, sex sells and sexiness equals ratings, because most women secretly have a desire to be attractive like the woman on television, while most men are attracted to a woman that is more visually appealing. But while sexy may be right for the television anchor or actress, it is not the right look for a female corporate executive.

For men, sitting styles include feet close to one another on the floor with knees spread slightly, feet on the floor with knees spread wider than the feet, one leg on the floor with the ankle of the other leg placed on the knee, and sitting with knees crossed in the same way as described above as the women’s scissors or inverted V style.

The most offensive of these four male seating types is the legs spread wide open, essentially making his genitals the focal point of his posture. Many athletes tend to sit like this in interviews. While such posture might be fine in the locker room, it never works in an interview. The male sitting with his legs wide open sends a message of overconfidence and high superiority. And while that may intentionally or subliminally be the message the male is trying to send, a reporter or television audience may also interpret it as a sign of ignorance or stupidity.

A man crossing one ankle over his knee, almost in the shape of a number 4, is the most common posture for men and is often acceptable in interviews, but it is not without its problems. The exposed sole of your shoe could prove to be an embarrassment, especially if it turns out that a hole has started to develop on the shoe sole below the ball of your foot. Other times, you may have stepped in gum, which leaves a mark on the shoe sole. There are also multi-cultural considerations when a man sits like this. In many Asian and Muslim cultures, exposing the sole of your shoe is a great insult, so think carefully about your audience before sitting like this.

Men older than 40 tend to be more likely to cross their legs at the knee, in the inverted V style, than younger men. From a body language perspective, many people perceive this seating style to be more feminine, especially in younger men, even to the point of being stereotyped as being homosexual. For younger men, such posture may even be perceived as a sign of weakness. For older men, there is sometimes a degree of maturity or wisdom associated with this type of leg crossing. A key indicator of whether this type of leg crossing has a feminine or masculine appearance depends upon how far out and how high up the raised foot is. The closer the raised foot is to the low leg, the more feminine the appearance. The more raised the foot is in relation to the lower leg, the more masculine the appearance. This more raised approach is really a cross between the number 4 style and the inverted V style. One advantage this has to the pure number 4 style is that it points the shoe sole to the floor, shielding under-shoe blemishes and eliminating cultural insensitivity.

For both men and women, the best posture for sitting is to bring your back slightly away from the back of the chair, which also pushes your posterior slightly forward on the seat of the chair. With your body weight shifted forward, it virtually forces your feet to the floor, rather than having your legs crossed. Once your feet are comfortably on the floor, men generally slide one foot slightly more forward than the other. Women will do the same in some cases, but in most cases will now find it more comfortable to cross one foot behind the other. When attempting this style, you should not be sitting on the edge of the chair, but just slightly away from the back of the chair.

This slightly forward seating posture also makes it more possible for you to talk with your hands during an interview. Talking with your hands, especially with your palms in an upward position, is a sign of openness and honesty. It lets you gesture with palms up to the interviewer when directing outward expressions, while gesturing with palms up toward yourself for personal stories or to demonstrate personal accountability.

Among the things never to do with your hands in an interview is to flail them or pass them in front of your face. You should also avoid crossing your hands on your lap. Flailing is an indication that you are somewhat sporadic and lack focus. Crossing your hands over your lap and genitals indicates weakness for men and women. For men, having their hands crossed over their genitals is a big sign of feeling vulnerable.

Not only is crossing your hands over your genitals an incorrect posture when you are sitting, it is also incorrect when standing. Commonly referred to as the fig leaf position, hands over the genitals for a male, again, is a sign of weakness and vulnerability, as well as weakness for a woman. Many people instinctively cross their hands over their genitals when standing because this is the way they have taken so many group photos from the time they were in grade school. As an adult, it is time for you to learn that this is an old trick used by photographers to get children to stand still and keep their hands to themselves long enough for the photographer to snap the exposure. The trick kept Billy from punching Bobby on the arm while the children were positioned as a group. And from a photo perspective, crossed hands is never good photography.

Also while standing, you should avoid swaying back and forth. This demonstrates the same type of nervousness as swaying or swiveling in a chair. The preferred posture when standing is to have your feet spread slightly or to place your weight on your dominant leg.

Many people are also confused about what to do with their hands during an interview when they are standing. In addition to avoiding the fig leaf position, you should never put your hands in your pockets. Placing your hands on your hips comes naturally for some people, but from a body language perspective it is perceived as a sign of arrogance or superiority. Generally the best default position is to have your hands at your side then raise them between your waist and chest for gesturing. When not gesturing, a good standby position is you have your hands lying one inside the other just above the waist, waiting for the next opportunity to talk with your hands and gesture.

To wrap things up, your words will always be important, but whether the reporter or his audience believes you will depend in part on your body language.

In our next lesson, we’ll answer that age old question, should you speak off the record?

I’ll tell you if you promise not to tell anyone.

Media Training 17: What Makes the Media Say Wow! – Commit News

By Gerard Braud

As a reporter, I generally hated going to a news conference or a media event that was about good news. It’s not that I’m opposed to covering good news, it’s just that generally the spokespeople were poorly prepared and the organizers were completely oblivious of the wants, needs and desires of the media.

If you call a news conference or organize a media event, you’d better be prepared to commit news. When someone commits murder, it is usually a pre-meditated act.  Well, good news needs to be pre-meditated as well. You need to commit news. 

The litmus test we use in the newsroom is to first ask, “Who cares?” Actually, in most newsrooms everyone curses like sailors, so how we actually phrase the “who cares?” statement a lot harsher. To pass the litmus test, the answer needs to be that a large portion of our viewing, reading or listening audience care. That’s how news is determined.

Too many good news events fail to meet that basic test of affecting or bettering the lives of a vast number of people in your community. A ribbon cutting is not news. Expanding your facility is not news. The anniversary of when your organization was founded is generally not news. Yet every day, the newsroom is filled with news releases asking the media to cover such events.

It is not news if the event is self-centered and all about how good your organization is. To be news, you must explain how it is good for that broad audience. To quote my wife – it’s not about you. It needs to be about the audience at home watching TV, reading the newspaper or listening to the radio.

For something to be news, you also have to make the media say Wow! That means you need to knock their socks off with a catchy hook, have good quotes and good visuals. Often adding wow means you have good timing and you are able to link your issue or event to something else important in the news. For example, holding a blood drive on a clear sunny day is likely not news, but holding a blood drive to help the victims of a crisis is news. Holding a food drive on a clear, sunny day is likely not news, but holding a food drive to help victims of a major natural disaster is.

I teach a workshop called, “What Makes the Media Say Wow!” My favorite case study in that program is one for a litter clean-up event that I was asked to handle PR for. The event is called Beach Sweep. It is an annual event that organizes thousands of volunteers to fan out along the Louisiana coast to pick up trash that has washed up on the beaches. While the event initially got lots of media attention, after covering the story for several years, media attention had died off.

To add wow I added controversy. In our state legislature there was a huge battle between a group of recreational fishermen and members of the commercial fishing industry. Fishing in Louisiana has a huge economic impact because more seafood is caught in our coastal waters than in any of the lower 48 states. With that said, I called the leaders of the 2 feuding groups and asked if they would both lay their differences aside for one day. I further asked them to call on all of their members to help pick up trash in the coastal waters as they went fishing on Beach Sweep Saturday. They both agreed. I then asked both leaders to act as spokespeople at a media event. These feuding parties standing side by side helped to create the wow I needed. Next, I needed the event to be visual, so I held it at a boat launch where the fishermen could take reporters out by boat to see the trash problem first hand.

Finally, I provided just enough media training for both spokespeople to teach each a handful of good quotes and how to deflect any probing questions about their ongoing battle in the state legislature. The best quote was crafted by simply asking the fishermen to hold a landing net and to demonstrate how it could be used to pick up trash, while saying, “This landing net is the best tool a fisherman can have this Saturday because you can land a trophy fish and you can use it to pick up trash.” It was what I call a show-and-tell quote. Four TV stations used the same quote, as did one radio station and every newspaper.

I knew going into the event that every reporter was really covering the story hoping to get greater insight on the legislative fight. When asked about the fight, the spokespeople were taught to say, “We’ll talk about that another day. Today we’re here to talk about something that is important to every fisherman, which is to clean up the environment.”

Hence, we committed news, told a story that impacted the economy, every fisherman and everyone who uses the waterways and beaches. That means we had all the pieces of a perfect story. And, to add icing to the cake, every reporter thanked us for making the story so easy to cover because we met their wants, needs and desires by giving them a story with a great hook, great quotes and great visuals.

In summary – be ready to commit news and don’t try to make the news about you, make it about your audience.

In our next lesson, we’ll talk more about how to prepare, media train and practice for an interview being conducted by an investigative reporter.


Media Training 16: Practice, even if you only have 5 minutes

By, Gerard Braud

In our last lesson we talked about how to structure a media training class and how I always tell the executives I train that they must practice before every interview, even if they only have 5 minutes.  I’d like to expand on that and explain why this is so important.

I was training an executive who is the CEO of a Fortune 100 company. As I often do, I asked to see some video tape of his previous interviews so I could know more about the person I was training and his natural strengths and weaknesses.

A video tape arrived at my office, featuring the CEO conducting a news conference at a major trade show for his industry.  It was downright painful to watch. This executive was rambling extensively. There was little or no emotion in his voice. He seemed to be reading a long laundry list of accomplishments and corporate goals. For all practical purpose, the news conference had no focus.

At the start of our training session I pulled out the video tape and suggested we watch it.

“Oh you don’t want to watch that,” he said. “I was terrible in that. Trust me… I did that presentation 3 times that day. The third time I was great.”

So I asked him to break down who was in the audience for each of the 3 presentations. As it turns out the first time he did it, the audience was composed of stock analysts. The second news conference was held for mainstream media. The third news conference was held for trade publications.

As he explained who his audiences were, he quickly realized that his worst performance was for his most critical audience. He failed to perform at his best for stock analysts who can potentially have the greatest positive or negative impact on his company. If you think back to lesson 2 you’ll remember my admonition – If you could attach a dollar to every word that you say, would you make money or lose money.

I asked if he practiced the news conference at all on the day before. He told me no, because he didn’t have time. I then pointed out to him that if he had practiced 3 times the day before, his would have done a great job in front of his most financially critical audience.

Practice makes perfect and even if you have only a few minutes before heading out to talk to the media, you need to practice and role play with a colleague or coach.

What we want to say, what we think we’re going to say and what actually comes out of our mouths when we start talking are all very different.

A “back stage” practice changes all of that. It only requires someone to ask you a few questions, starting with the very basics. You really want to make sure you can nail your opening lines and command the audience’s attention. You want to make sure you can eliminate any of the stutters, stumbles and misspeaks that often happen in the first sentence.

I find that if a spokesperson can have 2 good practice sessions, their third time – which is the real event – will go smoothly.

Obviously, in an ideal world I would like to see the spokesperson practice for more than just 5 minutes, but 5 minutes is better than nothing.

So often, spokespeople fail to spend any time in preparation, especially if it is a good news story. As often happens, they attempt to “wing it.” As a result, their good news story may get little or no coverage because they failed to deliver a great opening statement and then failed to really clearly state their key messages in great quotes. Generally, the spokesperson who does not practice in advance will have a monotone delivery and like my CEO friend, will stand at the podium and offer a long laundry list will very little focus

The bottom line is, you need to always carve out time to practice, because what you say will affect your organization’s bottom line.

In our next lesson, we’ll take a closer look at good news stories and how you can get the media to say Wow!