By Brian Knox, Vice President, Zeppos & Associates, Inc. – Milwaukee, Wisconsin
As a former television reporter and anchor, it continues to amaze me at how many people just don’t take the time to think things through before a media interview or plan how they’ll respond if confronted by reporters on an issue. As PR professionals, you’ll find many firms like ours offer their own unique counsel and proven techniques to help prepare clients for a variety of media situations. Lessons learned from media training programs can help an individual for a lifetime. Yet, there remain those who scoff at the thought of getting any help. Regardless of their position or maybe in spite of it, they believe they have some magical, mystical power to handle any and all media situations. Below are just three common media training tips and three individuals who, in just the past few weeks, remind us why training is so important.
The camera, recorder, smart phone, etc. are always on and anything you say or do is fair game for the media. Cheney Mason, one of the defense attorneys for Casey Anthony would have benefitted from this advice. His decision to show the media how he really felt about them after the verdict made for a not-so-flattering photo. Faster than you can say “did he just do that….?” the photo of him giving the bird actually made like a bird, flying across U.S. and international news wires, YouTube and other social media. Like those in that room, we all ended up “getting the picture.”
Tell the truth – if you don’t, reporters will be more than happy to untangle your web of lies. In the words of Rod Serling on TV’s Twilight Zone, “Enter one Anthony Weiner.” The former Congressman lied to keep his secret under wraps, causing the media to dig even further and quickly discover what Weiner couldn’t handle, the truth. And as for the former Congressman’s inappropriate Twitter photos, please refer to Tip #1.
Don’t argue with a reporter – you can’t win. Someone should have told that to Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice David Prosser. After allegations surfaced that he had a physical altercation with another Justice during an argument, Justice Prosser was confronted in a hallway by a TV news crew. When the reporter started asking questions, Justice Prosser grabbed the reporter’s microphone yanking it away and then shoving it back at him. Guess what became the focus of the newscast that night? Even Law & Order couldn’t dream this kind of stuff up.
While these are high-profile cases, media training might have steered them toward slightly different outcomes. I’d like to think media training can help virtually anyone to a certain extent, but I suppose there could be exceptions. Wait, I just got a text from a guy…something about #winning?