Wow, does the Catholic Church need some media training. Archbishop Denis Hart yesterday faced the parliamentary inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations. Ruth Hilton from Moorooduc summed it up perfectly in The Age today – 18 years to defrock an abusing priest, then a smirk and a flippant ‘better late than never’ from Victoria’s senior Catholic cleric. Shame.
I couldn’t agree more. There’s a place for flippancy in some media encounters but that certainly wasn’t one of them.
And the public agree – the Comment section in today’s edition of the paper was full of criticism of the Archbishop – as well as the And Another Thing column.
Next week it’s Cardinal George Pell’s turn at the inquiry and I can just imagine the arrogance that man will display.
Interesting to read at the weekend that Opposition Leader (not for long) Tony Abbott has seen the light in relation to his media performances. Apparently Abbott observed in himself a distinct difference in the way he would answer people at doorstop press conferences (they’re media conferences Tony, not just press) and the way he would deal with people at a community forum in his electorate.
Eureka – he’s seen the light. I keep telling participants at our media training workshops to imagine themselves in a social situation, be it drinks at the pub, a dinner party or a BBQ with neighbours. The last one is the closest to that community forum Abbott speaks of. And then talk to the media the way you would at that social situation. This lends itself to a much better, more natural conversation.
The downside is that you don’t have as much time in a media interview to put your case as you might in a community forum. But, gee, let’s work on honing your messages and then deliver them in that friendly manner. You’ll be really surprised at the results.
Abbott said he realised he was becoming a little snappy to people at his doorstop press conferences (there’s that word press again) and that really wasn’t a good look as far as the public were concerned.
He then went on to show his lack of understanding of the media by saying the people asking me the questions may as well be members of the public, rather than annoying journalists who are QCs for the prosecution.
Tony, Tony, Tony – the media are the public. That’s their job, to represent the public and ask the questions they think the public want answers to. No working journalist will tell you this but, as a former working journalist, let me tell you – journalists are merely conduits through to that public.
One of your predecessors, John Howard, once told talkback man Jon Faine that he was there to talk to the public not to Faine – and Faine thought that was pretty insightful of Howard who, incidentally, was a master media manipulator. Take heed Tony Abbott.
Bfeore we go, let’s add some more business-speak to the list. In today’s paper I see these examples from a share float – “establish taxonomies”, “vendor agnostic integration layer” and “configurable naming convention management”. Good grief!
Media training is not just about helping you prepare for a media interview. It can involve other aspects of the media encounter, such as preparation of media releases. In today’s Age there is a little item that says:
“When pitching story ideas, it could be worthwhile to check if the event being spruiked in a media release is still occurring and if the date of the milestone being marked has already occurred. Just a suggestion.”
Obviously the journalist involved, Suzanne Carbone, had received such a bad media release. I always tell my media training workshop participants to ensure you have the correct contact details and, if you’re writing the release during the week for a weekend event, make sure you have after hours contact details so the journalist can reach you if they need to.
I was working on the Channel 7 newsdesk in Melbourne a couple of years ago when a PR lady called to thank us for running a story on her new health breakthrough. When I told her the international speaker we filmed had the words from the projector over his face most of the time her response was: “I wasn’t expecting television.” I told her that if you send out a media release to the media, expect all forms of it to turn up, then you’re covered.
By the way, it is media release, not press release as it covers all arms of the media – press, radio, television and internet.
The extraordinary investor Warren Buffett doesn’t need media training. He has a genuine, folksy manner about him that appeals to a lot of people. In other words, they trust him and he comes across as sincere.
His annual letter to shareholders went out last Friday and the New York Times said it “was written in accessible prose and largely free of financial jargon…it holds appeal far beyond Wall Street. This year’s dispatch contained plenty of Buffett’s folksy observations about investing and business that his devotees relish.”
Ah, if only Australian business would listen to that and try to replicate – not necessarily the folksy observations but certainly the lack of jargon part. We say in everyone of our media training workshops that you should be talking to the media as you would talk to someone in a social situation (eg. drinks at the pub, BBQ or dinner party). Sure, you might have to tame your language a little but if you head down that path you will give better interviews.
In that same vein of talking simply and sincerely, here’s a great farewell letter from the sacked CEO of Groupon, Andrew Mason – how refreshing a read!
People of Groupon,
After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why … you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.
You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.
For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.
If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!
Interesting to see Malcolm Turnbull on Q&A last night espousing one of my media training points – honesty. The shadow communications spokesman was asked what it was like to lose the party leadership.
”Gut-wrenching.” ”Devastating.” They were the two main emotive words used and, as The Age points out today, it was “honest and direct enough to make you look up at the person talking. Up in the control room at Q&A, they knew they had a moment. The camera angle was unsatisfactory. They switched angles, trying to get the shot tight on his face. It didn’t quite work, because Turnbull forgot his TV technique and kept swivelling to address the questioner.”
There are a lot of people who have been destroyed by political setbacks and I could have been – it was very, very gut-wrenching, it was devastating. It’s a devastating business, a terribly cruel business, politics. Because all of your mistakes and blunders are out there in the public arena. You’ve got nowhere to hide. There is not an ounce of privacy.’
Wow, real honesty – and from a politician no less. I am impressed and just wish more attendees at our media training workshops would take this lesson on board and be more open and honest with the media in future.
Just discovered a new aid that I will be highlighting in ongoing media training workshops – Addictomatic at http://addictomatic.com/. Simply insert the topic you’re interested in and it will create a mashup of entries on that topic from:
Google Blog Search
Blinkx Mainstream Vid News
Twingly Blog Search and
Anyone facing a media interview would be wise to insert their organisation’s name and the topic of interest into that site to see what people might be saying – I reckon the journos are doing the same thing so be prepared before any media interview. I also suggest at my media training sessions that potential interviewees do a Google search and, if time allows, set up a Google Alert on the topic – again, these are steps the journos are likely to be taking and you should be equally as prepared particularly if you find some negative comments through these steps.
Well here we are in 2013 and I notice that media training services are needed more than ever. Emergency service personnel seem to be talking more naturally in their TV interviews but there’s still media training work to be done. Generally, it’s the false perception by so many interviewees that formality is needed to communicate the gravitas of a situation – please bring back Ronnie Reagan to show these people how to use the whole gamut of expressions while communicating.
Speaking of formality, you can see doses of it if you watch Border Security on the 7 Network. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be the choice of the production company but more likely the Public Service attitude of the Customs people featured in the show – they are called “officers” constantly…..as in “Officer Sandy will now pat down the suspect” or “Officer Bill will Xray the bag”. Why it cant be just Sandy or Bill is beyond me. Sure they do an important job but you don’t have to make them sound so formal to communicate that job to us.
And the person who needs media training most so far this year – why, it ‘s the First Bloke who embarrassed his Prime Minister wife with an off comment about prostate examinations.
It appears that when a crisis hits the last thing people think of doing is saying that magic word “sorry”. In our media training workshops we’re very big on that word and we’re very big on saying it soonest.
As I write this, I’m still waiting for the Sydney disc jockeys who made the prank call that appears to have led to a nurse’s suicide in the UK to come forward and say “we’re sorry”. Two little words that unfortunately wouldn’t bring that nurse back but would quite possibly reduce some of the anger and inflamed comments the prank has generated. But, no, haven’t heard those words yet. Have heard the DJs are getting counselling which makes me wonder what wimps modern HR practices are moulding.
If you really need it, get the counselling later – after you’ve come out and apologised for the unintended result of your prank. Come to one of our media training workshops and learn how to handle a crisis properly!
Have a think about public perception of not only your organisation but your industry. Are you one of the good guys, like a charity, motoring organisation or emergency services? If so, you’re a jump ahead of other organisations like oil companies and banks that are not held in high esteem by the public.
You can use this to your advantage especially in a radio or TV interview where some light and shade in delivery is paramount to a good performance. Lighten up at times, smile and remind the interviewer of the good deeds your organisation performs. Don’t be defensive as we see in a lot of our media training workshops. We constantly see participants writhing in agony almost as they talk about matters that really amount to good deeds. On those occasions look the part – be confident, happy and willing to share the good news with the listeners, viewers, readers.
Remember, we don’t want to see you constantly grinning through an interview nor do we want to see you looking serious the whole time. It’s the variety that makes your performance more compelling to watch or listen to.
We see this come out in our media training workshops and it’s always pleasing to see the change in participants once they realise they don’t have to be serious looking the whole time during an interview.