Don’t be backward in using props if you think they’re going to focus people’s attention on your message. But, if you do use a prop, just remember to hold it up higher than you normally might to accommodate the framing for a TV interview or Press photo. The same rule applies if you’re a hand talker and you want people to fully see your hands not just the tips of fingers running along the bottom of the screen.
This photo shows Liberal MP for Murray, Dr Sharman Stone, holding up samples of SPC fruit at a media conference on February 13, 2014 as she welcomed the Victorian Government’s injection of funds to save the Shepparton factory from closure.
Within four minutes, the release was speedily amended to swap the offending nouns, to say that the tax was in fact “still inflicting plenty of pain, with no environmental gain”.
The article said a spokesman for Mr Hunt wanted to be clear “it was my typo, not the Minister’s”.
These are the sort of accidents that can happen when preparing media releases and anyone involved in that activity has to be super vigilant. In my media training workshops I highly recommend reading the release back to yourself several times and, if possible, get another set of friendly eyes nearby to check your work.
There’s a really good piece on The Age online today that lists 10 sayings that people often get wrong. Because I’ve heard a few of these in my media training sessions I thought I’d post this so if you’re not sure you can check if you’re saying the phrase/word correctly.
As The Age points out, it can be incredibly embarrassing to get commonly used sayings wrong. Called an “eggcorn”, these slips happen when someone tries to use a word or expression they’ve heard that they’ve never seen written down, so muddle up the words. The name for these mistakes was derived by someone once describing an acorn as an eggcorn.
Here’s the first and last points on the list:
1. You’ll often hear someone say that something has become “a mute point”. What they should say is that it’s become “a moot point”.
10. Are you making major changes in your life, or job? Don’t describe this as a complete 360 degree change in your life. You’re not going full circle. You’re actually making a 180 degree change.
So Tony Abbott used to be a journalist. I’m amazed then that he has come out swinging at the ABC, accusing it of virtually being biased against Australia – all because it didn’t give the Australian Navy the “benefit of the doubt” in its story about asylum seekers suffering burns as a result of mistreatment by the Navy.
If he was a fair dinkum journo (like I was when I did my cadetship at the ABC) then he would know that the role of the media in a democracy should be free, fair and fearless, as Michael Gordon put it in The Age today.
If Abbott intends taking the ABC down the state-controlled path we see in so many other countries then I would no longer wish to live here. And I wouldn’t be alone in that view either.
Stick to politics Tony and leave the reporting to our media, uncontrolled and not swayed by any nationalism or patriotism as you would like.
I see The Age has finally caught up with our prime minister and his slow, monotone delivery. A piece in yesterday’s Sunday Age showed how he now speaks 100 words a minute slower in media interviews than when he was in opposition.
His rate today apparently is 108 words per minute, dropping from 216 words a minute. Normal speech is 180 words a minute.
The article quotes a Dr Cate Madill from the University of Sydney who thinks he has no “disfluencies”, that is, um, ahs and long pauses. To me, as a media trainer, he still has pauses and while the good Dr says his repetition is a good strategy to buy yourself time, it’s no good if you’re not changing the words. Merely repeating yourself two or three times in close proximity is a real turnoff for audiences.
I do agree with Dr Madill though when she says “the speech delivery of the nation’s leader resembles that of a puppet and is equal to the wooden communication style ridiculed in former prime minister Julia Gillard”.
I don’t know who is media training Abbott but I’d love to have a session with him to add some sparkle, oomph and briskness to his delivery.
Volkswagen Australia should have had media training before the debacle of its recent safety recall. If I had been running a media training Melbourne workshop for their top executives I would have said “you have to talk to the public about this and the best and most efficient way to do that is through the news media”.
Instead, the company refused to speak to the media and the public were therefore left in the dark about the problems some were having with their VW engines suddenly losing power. They were rightly puzzled as VW in other countries had issued safety recalls for the same problem!
By the time VW went ahead and issued the safety recall for 26,000 vehicles, the Australian public voted with their feet and stayed out of VW showrooms in droves. On July 3, 2013 it was announced that VW sales had dropped 20% while the market overall was up 5%!
I can’t believe they refused to speak to the news media for a whole week before issuing the recall. They seemed to forget that the Australian public don’t like being messed with. They were forgetting also that the media are the people, and in this case, those people were potential buyers who obviously looked elsewhere.
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!