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4 Media Training & Interview Tips Courtesy of Jeb Bush & Megyn Kelly

Fox-Jeb-Bush

By Gerard Braud

Media training is not just about being an expert when it comes to answering a question. Media interview skills also require you to know how to ask questions of the reporter. The fuss about presidential candidate Jeb Bush is a case in point, based on an answer he gave to Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly when asked about the Iraq War. What happened to Bush, can just as easily happen to you or an executive who serves as your spokesperson.

Here are some tips that will help you in your next interview:

Lesson 1: Listen to the question.

Lesson 2: Discern whether there is a question behind the question.

Lesson 3: Anticipate how your answer might trigger a dangerous follow up question.

Lesson 4: If you don’t truly understand the question or where the question might take you, ask the reporter to clarify. It is okay to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t fully understand your questions. Can you restate it?”

Bush’s failure to do this is costly. It can cost him in the polls as well as in financial contributions. In business, it can cause you to lose customers and sales because it damages both your reputation and your revenue.

Book quote(For those of you who rely on my book Don’t Talk to the Media Until as your executive media training guide book, this lesson relates directly to Lesson 2: The Big If on page 3, in which I ask the question, “If you could attach a dollar to every word that comes out of your mouth, would you make money or lose money?”)

Here is how the interview went down:

Kelly: “On the subject of Iraq, knowing what we know now, would you have authorized the invasion?”

Bush: “I would have, and so would have Hillary Clinton, just to remind every body and so would almost everybody that was confronted with the intelligence they got.”

But Kelly’s question is not about going to war based on the intelligence provided at the time, yet Bush’s answer is. Essentially Kelly’s question is, “If you were president and you were told there are no large supplies of chemical weapons in Iraq, would you still invade?”

That isn’t the question Bush was answering. Bush thought he was being asked, “If you had been presented with the same intelligence your brother was presented with as President, would you have made the same decision to go to war that he did?”

The presidential campaign season is just getting started and the media are looking for every little flaw in every sentence that is spoken by a candidate. They do the same in interviews with you or your executives who serve as a spokesperson.

Bush’s faux pas is proof that even media interview veterans have to keep their skills sharp by listening to each question carefully, clarifying the intent of the question, and parsing every word of your answer.

It is amazing how many people create negative headlines for themselves because of something they said in a media interview that wasn’t perfect.

My advice is that regardless of how powerful you are and how busy you might be, to do a solid interview you should:

1) Have a media training coach that you love to work with

2) Set time aside at least once a year to allow that trainer to grill you on camera with an honest evaluation

3) Roll play with a coach or colleague before every interview with every reporter, so that you get your head in the game moments before the real questions begin.

Never allow yourself to get complacent. Don’t think because you’ve done so many interviews that you can eliminate the training that keeps your skills sharp. One misplaced word can cause serious harm to your reputation and your revenue. Can you afford that?

Media Training Case Study: The Hillary Clinton Campaign

hil By Gerard Braud

The media lessons of Herman Cain, in our last article, should be heeded well by the Hillary Clinton campaign as well as by all public relations experts, CEOs and executives.

Lesson #1: Always consider the financial impact of your words.

Lesson #2: When you have big negatives in your past, you must be ready to explain them to the media the day you decide you want to be a candidate. Therefore, you must spend time to craft an answer, practice that answer, and be able to deliver it flawlessly the day you eventually get asked about it.

Lesson #3: Don’t be in denial about your negatives. The media will eventually find out and ask you about it and you’ll need a perfect quote and explanation.

Hillary Clinton is a much more masterful pro before the media than Cain. She’s been the first Lady of Arkansas and of the United States. She’s been a previous presidential candidate and the Secretary of State. However, she still is not perfect when it comes to answering questions. Some may believe she works as hard not to answer a question as she does to answer a question.

As she enters her campaign she will have to answer some heavy negative questions right from the start including questions about her Secretary of State emails on her personal server. Questions my arise about the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, and about her past in Arkansas with issues such as the death of Vince Foster and the Whitewater deal.

In the past, she tried to blame tough media scrutiny on, “A vast right wing conspiracy.” And for her loyal base, that answer worked. But the Sunday talk shows were abuzz with journalists bringing up the negatives previously mentioned here.

Regarding Lesson #1: The base has already filled her war chest, but if the media go negative on Clinton early and she does not reply properly in word or deed, she will be in trouble, either against an opponent in the primary or in the general election.

Regarding Lesson #2: Time will tell if she has plausible answers and quotes that will satisfy both the media and further questioning by Congress.

Regarding Lesson #3: If she fails to answer questions about her negatives, then she is in denial.

Some politicians with a strong base try to play the numbers game of knowing they have enough check-writing supporters to plow past their negatives. Wouldn’t it be easier to make the negatives go away with great planning and great quotes that provide a plausible and believable explanation?

Likewise, many corporate executives think their loyal customer or employee base will support them and the negatives will pass with time. My question is why wait? Why not be pro-active so you can focus on future positive rather than past negatives?

What do you think?

 

Media Training Case Study: Political Season Is Upon Us

Hermain CainBy Gerard Braud

In yesterday’s article I mentioned The New York Times called me Friday for a comment about Rand Paul’s hostile interview with NBC’s Savannah Guthrie. When the Times starts calling for observations, that means the political season is in full swing.

You can learn a lot about your own media interview dos and don’ts during campaigns, especially the presidential campaigns. We’ll take some time this week to look at a few lessons from the current presidential campaign, as well as the last campaign.

We can learn two lessons from the 2012 failed campaign of former pizza CEO Herman Cain.

Lesson #1: Always consider the financial impact of your words. (See Chapter #2 of Don’t Talk to the Media Until…)

Lesson #2: When you have big negatives in your past, you must be ready to explain them to the media the day you decide you want to be a candidate. Therefore you must spend time to craft your answer, then practice that answer, and be able to deliver it flawlessly the day you get asked about it.

Lesson #3: Don’t be in denial about your negatives. The media will eventually find out, ask you about it and you’ll need a perfect quote and explanation.

The Herman Cain lesson begins with the fact that he had, according to reports, been accused by several women of sexual harassment. His employer at the time settled out of court and the accusers signed a confidentiality agreement about the settlements. However, before the settlement was signed, it is possible that these women discussed their cases with their friends. You can also bet that opposing campaigns hired opposition research experts who would eventually discover this. Those researchers will look for an opportunity to leak it to the media. The media_If you could attach a dollar to every-1 eventually asked Herman Cain the question, “Have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?” Cain replied, “Well have you ever been accused of sexual harassment?”

Really Herman? You wanted to be the President of the United States and on the day you announced your candidacy you didn’t know how you would answer your toughest question? This is such a rookie mistake, yet also a typical mistake of high powered people.

Why?

Regarding Lesson #1: The day after this quote aired, Cain told everyone it wasn’t hurting his campaign and that checks were still coming in from supporters. The reality is checks were arriving from people who wrote them before the bad quote. The checks stopped rolling in later that week and the campaign ended. My opening sentence in each media training class I teach is the question, “If you could attach a dollar to ever word you say, would you make money or lose money?” Herman Cain’s situation proved this point.

Regarding Lesson #2: The day a candidate launches their campaign, they must have their quotes written and practiced for every negative in their lives. Failure to do so is unprofessional. In public relations, failure of a PR person to do this for their company and failure of the C-Suite to know the answers is unacceptable and amateurish. It is the job of the PR team and the job of the executives to be prepared. As a public relations person, you must be willing to push your CEO hard enough that if he or she doesn’t listen, you are willing to quit your job.

Regarding Lesson #3: Every candidate has negatives, just as every company has negatives. It is only a matter of time before an opponent learns of the negatives and tips off the media. It is better for you to acknowledge this and prepare for this than to live your life hoping it never gets discovered. Hope is not a public relations or crisis communications strategy.

Next, we’ll apply these lessons to Hilary Clinton.