Loose Lips

Don’t sink your own ship!

Never interrupt your elders. 60 Minutes last night aired an interview with House Majority Leader Eric Cantor. Correspondent Leslie Stahl was questioning the Congressman about the need for bi-partisan cooperation and said even Cantor’s hero, Ronald Reagan, compromised and raised taxes.

At that point, Cantor’s press secretary off-camera shouted: “That just isn’t true. And I don’t want to let that stand.”  Naturally, 60 Minutes included the unhelpful interjection in their piece.

A spokesman’s job is to prepare his or her boss BEFORE an on-camera interview starts. Once the cameras are rolling, just about the only time a press secretary should interrupt is to announce that the building is on fire.

This quote, from a post on Bill Harlow and Fred Francis’ 15-Seconds blog, is a perfect example of a “spokesman gone wild.” Nothing labels an interviewee as incompetent faster than having interjections from subordinates.

The fact that this results for captivating viewing makes it all the worse, as you can guarantee that the interviewing party will do anything they can to ensure that it’s heard on the broadcast. Once the interview is under way, a press secretary’s job is to sit back, take notes, and figure out how to improve the next interview.

This all leads back to a core component of crisis management: media training. A subject that many C-suiters would rather get a root canal than address, it is THE cornerstone of solid interviews, believability, and, quite often, your reputation. Knowing the fact that the very success of any business, or individual, lies with its reputation, wouldn’t you want to be prepared?

The BCM Blogging Team

Comments 2

  1. Jacquelyn Lynn

    I’ve always said that I could never be a spokesperson because I tend to speak impulsively, but even I would not have done what Cantor’s press secretary did. I must admit that, while I didn’t see the interview, I chuckled at the story — and will probably find the video online. The bottom line point is: appropriate media training for everyone is essential if you’re going to get your message across the way you want it. Great post!

  2. Philip Connolly

    Never say “never”, I’m not so sure that blanket disapproval of the press secretary’s actions is justified. Or at least the outcome may not be quite as bad as painted in your blog.

    Clearly one would far prefer the press secretary not to become the story. However, what I take away from this blog is that Ronald Reagan did not compromise and raise taxes. As a mere Brit I have no idea as to how important the former President’s tax-raising record is in the current scheme of things. If the press spokesman really thought this was a misrepresentation that should not be allowed to stand, then, even at the expense of some loss of face for the spokesman this may have done some good. After all there was plenty of time for him to show how on top of things he is in the rest of the interview.

    Just a thought, Philip

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