Here's our list of our favorite interview crack ups of 2011. This list is not necessarily the biggest or most dramatic media mangles of the year -- but rather items from which we think our friends, colleagues and clients can draw some important lessons. (The full blog item on each entry is linked from the item title.)
10. There Is No Such Thing As: "Off-the-Record"
9. There Is Such A Thing As "Too Much Information"
Normally we recommend to people who get in trouble to make their case to the media. But there are exceptions. Exhibit one: Duane Starkenburg, a Seattle man arrested for allegedly molesting women joggers met with reporters. While declaring his innocence, he tells reports that he likes watching women joggers because they "run around half-naked." His unhelpful interview is below:
8. When All Else Fails, Think
In late October we took note of Texas Governor Rick Perry's interview with Parade Magazine in which he dredged up (without apparent forethought) President Obama's birth certificate issue. The Presidential candidate spent the next few days back pedaling from his off-the-cuff comments and going so far as telling the St Pete Times that he was "only kidding." Our point was the Perry didn't seem very prepared for his interview. That observation was driven home in spades about ten days later when Perry came up with his 53-second brain freeze during a Presidential debate in which he couldn't remember one of his own major campaign positions. As Perry would say: Oops!
7. Honesty To A Fault Is Not A Virtue
“Why don’t you just poke me in the eye with a needle! You’ve got to be kidding me … I’m sorry, we just gave you $11.6 billion and now you’re telling me, ‘I don’t really care’?Fuller no doubt was right. But as a result of his un-diplomatic language he is now a FORMER senior official in Afghanistan and is not in a position to help make things in that troubled country better.
6. Get Your Signals Straight
Presidential candidate Herman Cain provided a mother-lode of examples of bad communications practices. None, perhaps, more telling that the day he appeared on Wolf Blitzer's program and tried to preempt a story about to break from a woman who claimed to have had a 13-year long affair with him. But at the same moment that Cain was on live TV saying there were no truth to the allegations which had not yet been publicized -- his lawyer was issuing a written statement saying it was a private matter and said Cain had "...no obligation to discuss these types of accusations publicly with the media and he will not do so."
There was no good strategy for Cain to deal with the mess on his hands -- but the single worst strategy was to adopt two polar opposite paths and employ them both at the same time. No surprise he effectively dropped out of the race shortly thereafter.
5. You Can Hide But You Cannot Run.
No matter how uncomfortable the questioning might be -- you need to know how to defend yourself and avoid running away.
4. Invention:Mother of Unnecessary Interview Trouble
The Secretary cited the car's fuel efficiency and said she also wanted to: "send a signal that we are for supporting our American workers, (and) American made products." Unfortunately, the Equinox is assembled in Canada. Maybe she meant to say she wanted to support NORTH American workers.
3. All Publicity Is NOT Good Publicity
There are times when the whole world thinks you are an evil bastard -- that the best thing to do is to keep quiet rather than to provide them with proof they are right. Accused Penn State pedophile Jerry Sandusky mysteriously keeps doing media interviews which serve only to foster the impression that he is one warped dude.
his lawyer also seems to reveling in the limelight despite the damage he appears to be doing to his client.
2. Getting Feisty With Media: Rarely A Good Idea.
(Former) Congressman Anthony Weiner provided a cornucopia of good examples of bad media relations this year. Trying to hide his very damaging personal circumstances, Weiner seemed to do everything possible to ensure he could not politically survive. As bad as the reports were -- Weiner got cranky with reporters -- going from interview to interview providing lies that were fairly easily discoverable. You would think that someone who had been publicly humiliated could (at least fake) being humbled -- but Weiner proved to just be a dork.
1. A Little Training Might Have Helped
Media trainers around the world owe so much to former British Petroleum CEO Tony Hayward. He has single-handedly provide the rationale for many government and corporate executives to decide they should invest in some training.
Although BP's oil spill was on 2010...Hayward continued to work on our behalf this year too. In June he made a speech to some British PR execs about the lessons learned from his mis-adventures in the Gulf.
Hayward described the media coverage of the spill as "vicious" and said his company was "at war with the media every day."
Hayward said he wished he had had a more senior team in charge of responding to the media - a recommendation that we, as very senior media relations, consultants heartily endorse.
Tony also suggested that corporations should test their crisis plans regularly and admitted that BP wasn't ready for what hit them.
People like Hayward need lots of practice on shaping the tone, content and delivery of their message. In-house PR shops are often ill-equipped to tell the boss that he is sounding arrogant, heartless, or oblivious -- but someone needs to be brought in with the clout to save them from themselves.
Hayward is right about crises situations can lead to war-like situation with the media. To paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld -- you go to war with the leaders you have. It is clear that BP was not battle ready.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
That's our list of 10 top media bungles of 2011 -- no doubt you all have your own.
For those who just love lists, here is our "Top-15" list from 2010 and a similar list from 2009.
We wish our reader's a happy and prosperous new year in which you all are prepared to make the most of your time in the media spotlight.
Bill & Fred