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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Hey Coach...Any Questions?

We're not sure how many more interviews we can read or watch leading up to the Super bowl because it's hard to get anyone to actually answer the questions.  However Coach Jim Harbaugh takes the non-response to a new art form.

A recent post in the Wall Street Journal analyzed his media day press conference.  Coach Harbaugh totally dismissed 12% of the questions, 5% were answered with another question, and he simply avoided 22% of the questions asked.  

At CommCore we consider ourselves to be connoisseurs of the Q & A process.  Clearly the coach can get away with his interview style, however the rest of us have to be more responsive.  We always advise our clients that while you don't have to answer every question exactly in the way it's asked, you have to at least acknowledge and try and bridge to a message when appropriate.  

However if you’re in a tight spot and don’t really want to answer any questions directly,  turn to the 49ers coach for help:
  • UM, NO

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Video: Five Media Training Tips from CommCore CEO Andrew Gilman

Thursday, January 24, 2013

The Big Bangs Theory

We acknowledge that at this week's Inaugural events in Washington predictable attention was paid to the famous designer gowns and hairstyles worn by women at all the events, and particularly at the star-studded balls.   (How much can you say about a man's classic white tie tuxedo?)

But the "news coverage" of First Lady Michelle Obama's choice of gowns and the new bangs she sported, for example, also highlights a longstanding theory that is supported by a 2010 study by the Women’s Media Center and She Should Run. It showed that even in this day media scrutiny of newsmakers' physical appearance – though it does include men – still disproportionally focuses on women, and often in what many accomplished women consider to be an overtly sexist and negative light. 

Cynics might tut-tut about the importance of emphasis on HER fashion selection over HIS. But the truth remains stark: as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other female leaders will attest, accomplished women are judged on their overall physical appearance more than male leaders.

To us at CommCore, the lesson for our clients is clear: Leadership is not just about ability, it's about perception, especially for women:

·         Communication Style (Public Speaking, Media Interaction)
·         Non-Verbal Communication (Gestures, Eye Contact, Body Movement)
·         Appearance (Dress that is appropriate for the occasion and natural for  the wearer)
·         Gravitas (Executive Presence)
·         Self –Awareness (Finding and Fixing Your Achilles Heel)

As Michelle Obama seeks to take on a more visible role in her husband's second term as President we'll be watching to see how she fares in news coverage, and not just about her bangs.




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Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Is it Live or is it Memorex (21st Century version)

The subtext of Washington Post reporter Monica Hesse's important story last week about the almost surreal "hoax" involving Notre Dame football star Manti T'eo should serve as the latest – and perhaps most direct – warning yet to professional communicators about the double-edged sword that is the Internet.

Her opening paragraph reads: "The Internet can be a blunt and brutal place. It's built on unruly mobs moving across the virtual terrain, digesting stories and leaving behind carcasses. But it is also one of the last vestiges of wide-eyed, unfettered belief." Hesse goes on to warn: "One of the interesting aspects of the Internet is the way that the veil of anonymity has come to provide a false sense of authenticity."

And therein's the rub – like in the old Memorex video tape commercial, is it live or not? To us at CommCore, the old adage, "If it’s too good to be true it probably isn't," requires a 21st Century re-do. Perhaps it's something like, "Beware: If it's on the Internet, it doesn't matter if it's true or not; it can take on a life of its own."

We're not behavioral psychologists. And we won't be the arbiters of whether T'eo was a victim or a party to the hoax. Certainly the mainstream media ate his story up. But it doesn't take a Phd to recognize that somewhere between the instant interactivity of the Internet and the need for recognition by social media users is a toxic place when it comes to truth and believability:

·         We want to be first, we want to be recognized, we want to be validated.

·         We don’t verify enough  before believing because we want to believe first, maybe even NEED to believe first. And with the blurring of the line between online innuendo and the shrinking pool of fact-based journalists, what sources to trust is an increasingly difficult decision.

 Whatever lies behind the bizarre T’eo story, we at CommCore will re-double our advice to our clients:

·         Monitor the Internet at all times for postings about your brand, company or issue. You can't contain what you don't know.

·         Early engagement may not stop the proliferation of a bogus or inaccurate item, but you will have the opportunity to get your side online early, which might limit the damage.

·         Social media is about engagement, not news releases or lecturing. Find out all you can about the source of a posting before you take it at face value. All some Internet posters want is simple acknowledgement.

·         Speed of response in today's real-time world is important, but speed without some measure of authentication is a trap that can be avoided with good judgment.

Just ask Manti T'eo.  Or ESPN.


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Friday, January 18, 2013

How to Use Storytelling as a Leadership Tool

Check out this great article in Forbes about the many useful ways to use storytelling as a strategic leadership tool.  As a coach, I strongly agree with the concepts and see the realization of storytelling’s great value in many critical professional situations. 

One particular point hit home for me.  The author, Paul Smith who is Director of Consumer & Communications Research at Procter & Gamble, says of storytelling:  "…it’s also good for…giving people coaching and feedback in a way that will be received as a welcome gift." I couldn't agree more.  Imagine how much more a person would embrace your feedback and be motivated to take corrective action if you packaged that critique within a helpful and relevant story.
It works far better when we’re coaching CEO's  other executives and thought leaders for addressing a variety of audiences.   What do you think?  Have you had a similar experience?

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Thursday, January 17, 2013

Is "I’m Sorry" Ever Enough?

Seeing Oprah and Lance Armstrong together reminds us that the latest celebrity apology tour is now underway.  Despite the overwhelmingly negative response to his actions, the real question is: what's the long term prognosis for Lance Armstrong’s resurrection?

There are lots of top ten lists out there ranking recent celebrity and corporate apologies.  What's remarkable is that from Tiger Woods to Netflix, many have come back.  Sometimes all it takes is time.  Those who return stronger often follow the lyrics to Brenda Lee's 1960 hit song "I'm sorry, so sorry that I was such a fool."

At CommCore we recognize that mistakes are made.  We advise our clients when faced with a crisis, speed and transparency are two important weapons that can help mitigate long-term damage.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dan Edelman: A true pioneer, an enduring partner and a truly inspiring example

I've had the privilege to meet Dan a few times during my years at Edelman-NY and fondly remember those "Dan-o-grams" he’d often send.  It is so sad to hear of the
passing of a legend, one of the "fathers of PR." Obituary.

Another of our senior professionals, Margo Gillespie, "apprenticed" at Edelman as well, which has prepared us both so thoroughly to carry out the good and positive work of public relations.  All of us at CommCore have enjoyed an enduring partnership and wonderful collaboration with the people at Edelman for many years now.  Through the years, Dan has elevated public relations to an essential part of an organization’s ability to succeed. 

Dan was a thoughtful, modest and generous person and that is what inspires us above all.  RIP.

Jerry Doyle
(Edelman Alumna, ’94-’99)

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recipe for Success? One person’s tale.

There is no set receipt for success. From experience and all our years of coaching at CommCore, we believe it's a combination of talent, learning, inspiring teachers and attitude.

I do not make many recommendations for books and must-listen to’s.  I am touting the new memoir of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, My Beloved World (Random House, 2013). You can also listen to the Justice on NPR as interviewed by Nina Totenberg.

Justice Sotomayor is the first Latino to be confirmed as a Supreme Court Justice.  Her story is both unique and a classic American success story. She overcame many obstacles including family issues, a less than privileged early education and ethnic prejudice.  What comes across is an image of a striver, a positive person who when faced with a challenge tackled it head on.

Form your own views on her judicial philosophy and decisions.  But if you want a little inspiration, listen to the Judge. 

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Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Projecting Leadership in 2013: A Communications Challenge

We would bet that a New Year's resolution for any senior executive is to be a better leader in 2013.  A recent survey by the Center for Talent Innovation provides some hard research that the measure of leadership is more than the results from on-the-job performance – it's also the appearance of leadership, or what can be called "Executive Presence."

The survey confirmed that strong communication ability is what Winston Churchill called the Language of Leadership. The study also reinforced that appearance and stature (what the study called "gravitas") are as important to the perception of leadership as the ability to speak well and convincingly. It also found that woman and minorities feel they are held to a stricter standard of leadership skills than their Caucasian counterparts because they struggle to blend their gender and cultural traits with the need to assimilate. The study encompassed  18 focus groups, 4,000 college degree professionals and 268 senior executives.

At CommCore we remind our clients that there are three essential elements that have to be considered equally and simultaneously in effective communication: The Message, the Audience, and You (the Speaker/Leader). The "You" includes both visual and auditory impressions -- voice, tone, pace, pauses, eye contact, gestures, posture, dress and…listening.  

Last year CommCore CEO Andrew Gilman helped Chief Executive Magazine compile a list of eight management styles that can get in the way of superior CEO performance and one’s perception as an effective leaders. Having the self-awareness and confidence to work one’s weaknesses is in itself a mark of strong leadership, says Gilman: "Too many CEOs are surrounded by supporters who don't give candid advice. The best CEOs know their strengths and try to shore up their weaknesses."  

Our blogs for 2013 will cover many topics – leadership will one of the key themes.





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