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Friday, September 20, 2013

Pitcher Needs Pitchman Relief

Just because you're a star baseball pitcher doesn't mean you're a good pitchman. The New York Mets' Matt Harvey – on injured reserve and potentially facing Tommy John surgery – needs more than a physical trainer these days. He needs a media trainer.

Harvey embarrassed himself on national radio this week when he awkwardly tried to focus his live interview with sports radio host Dan Patrick on his sponsor, wireless technology giant Qualcomm, rather than on his injury or baseball topics.

After Harvey refused to talk about anything other than Qualcomm, Patrick let him have has say, said goodbye, and then spent the next few minutes disparaging both Harvey and Qualcomm on the air. "That was bad, that was bad. We just wasted people's time here," Patrick concluded. Patrick's co-host even called the interview a "Qual-bomb" on the air.
At CommCore we always remind our clients that effective media interviews are a skill:

- Understand the rules of the road -- answer the reporter's questions (or at least acknowledge them if you can't answer them), and then they will let you get your pitch in....one time

- Prepare and practice how to bridge seamlessly from the media's topics of interest to the brand message you want to get in

- Develop a news hook for the brand message so it doesn't appear to be a shameless plug

Harvey had such a bad day that when he tried to apologize afterwards to Patrick via Twitter, his first tweet was sent to the wrong Dan Patrick, a Texas State Senator.

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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Facebook "Likes" As Political Yard Signs

The ruling by a federal appeals court that a "like" or a comment on Facebook is a form of protected free speech has major implications for professional communicators. The higher court reversed a Virginia district court decision upholding the dismissal of employees in the Hampton, VA sheriff's department four years ago because they "liked" and commented on an election opponent's campaign Facebook page.

The court held that a "like" amounts to a digital yard sign.

Writing for the majority, Chief Judge William B. Traxler concluded, “In sum, liking a political candidate’s campaign page communicates the user’s approval of the candidate and supports the campaign by associating the user with it. In this way, it is the Internet equivalent of displaying a political sign in one’s front yard, which the Supreme Court has held is substantive speech.”

The controversy underscores yet again the importance of clear social media policies to businesses, organizations and government agencies.

·       Make sure that any organizational social media policies or guidelines affecting employees or board members are specific and clear rather than general and vague

·       Consult with a labor or employment lawyer when drawing up social media guidelines to make sure they don’t infringe on employee rights (both in and out of the workplace), and don’t impinge on free speech

·       Monitor social media constantly for postings about the organization’s products, services, clients, and people

As a corollary, as communications trainers, we at CommCore applaud Judge Traxler’s effective use of the yard sign metaphor to illustrate a point of law. Using “visual” analogies to illustrate a technical point to a general audience is an effective communications technique.

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Friday, September 6, 2013

Find A Way-It Works

Diana Nyad’s mantra “Find a way” was the inspiration that led to her record-breaking swim from Cuba to Key West.  In her post-swim press conference, Nyad cited examples of her various work-arounds, i.e. the ultimate resiliency.  She kept adjusting her approach and strategies until she finally succeeded last weekend.  One of our favorite examples:   Deadly box jellyfish almost killed her in previous attempts so she found a way by developing a sting resistant swimsuit and facial mask

It might be a little of editorial license to suggest that the “find a way” philosophy works in many aspects of communications.  Media interviews, along with aggressive Q&A from customers and other stakeholders, are not driven by a precise scripts. Of course, you need to prepare, but the questions are never exactly like the FAQ documents.  So the “find a way” approach might be the best uses of bridges and pivots to make sure you score your points.  At CommCore, we don’t take no for an answer.  There is almost always a “way” to score your points.  How you can increase the odds of making the pivot answer the quote we’ll save for another blog.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The Trouble with Lines and Lips

A year ago President Obama stated publicly that any use of chemical weapons by Syria's President Assad was "a red line" that could not be crossed. It was a strong, visual metaphor. In using it he crossed a line that communicators always caution about – be careful when you frame a strong statement with an indelible image or metaphor because you may have difficulty re-calibrating your message later on.

Regardless of the public's, the pundits' and the media's current views on his Syria policy, President Obama is now also being taken to task by some of his critics specifically for his choice of words a year ago August. Headlines like "War of Words" and "Obama Blurs Red Line" only serve to turn his choice of imagery against him.
That's the nature of "visual" messages. Think of former President George H. W. Bush's infamous quote, "Read my lips; no new taxes," during the 1988 Republican convention that came back to haunt him in the 1992 election.

At CommCore we regularly remind our clients that important points are all the more effective when illustrated by memorable images or metaphors that imprint themselves in the public’s mind.  But we also counsel our clients to be careful and think ahead when they choose to do so because those images may stick when you suddenly don’t want them to, even on Teflon.

The lesson? Pick your spots for memorable “visual” one-liners and sound bites very carefully. The good news is that no one will forget them. The bad news is that depending on the subject you may wish they had.

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