Speech infected by low-hanging fruit? Run it up the flagpole!

This is something my students in Communications will find relevant.

It’s a hilarious case of what happens when you get infected by buzzwords and cliches. Gerard Braud, a well-known media trainer and business communications speaker I follow, gives us his take on how not to discombobulate your mesage when giving a speech.

(Public Service Announcement from the Center for buzzword disease control: Never use words such as ‘discombobulate!)

On camera, or on Mic, don’t over-produce your subjects

I am never comfortable whenever someone freezes that smile or his head angle for a picture I am about to take. It’s become the done thing to strike a pose. Not sure where this comes from, but I get the feeling it’s got something to do with a celebrity culture –and perhaps the media uproar when someone is caught looking less photo-ready.

I’ve also worked with PR people and know there is a solid reason to make sure the room is set up well so that the Big Guy (or Gal) acts natural. Controlling clothing, lighting, messing with hands or tapping on a table etc. There’s a good post about this by Paula Lovell, with a related discussion worth following at a LinkedIn group.

Gerard Braud is a pro at this and I’ve even sat in one of his media training workshops some years back at an IABC conference. He knows what he’s talking, so if you do have a client or am planing to put someone on camera, this is a great place to start.

But I have some comments about looking too ‘produced’. It’s not what the pros may say, but think about this:

  • Why should a CEO or thought leader always look like he/she never makes mistakes, and is flawless? Given the big push for transparency in communications in general, business and government in particular, wouldn’t the target audience prefer to see someone who looks slightly more human than studio settings permit?
  • A videographer or photographer could over-prepare a subject. Isaac Pigott makes a good point that the confidence from being who you are trumps all other external factors. That’s why teleprompters are scorned so much, today.

I my new profession, Education, I also teach children to present ideas and ignore the technology as much as they could. Yes I use cameras – video and DSL. I also put them in front of a microphone –corded and a ZoomH4N. It is possible to train them too much; it is also possible to let them come up with the most amazing things, unscripted, warts and all. I know what you may be thinking. They don’t have stakeholders to convince.

It’s a long shot from a CEO interview or podcast that I used to do until recently, but I’ve found some striking similarities in making them come off ‘as they are’ not as we want them to be.

If you are an educator, I write about these education issues at Voices-On.com

Do we trust journalists?

I spoke to someone whom I thought might be interested in a Media Training session today. His reaction was “I don’t talk to the media. Nothing good ever comes out of it!”


I was slightly taken aback, even though I have heard something like this before. (No, it was not Sarah Palin.) In fact, I have a mailer on my wall that announces “Don’t talk to the media…” On the reverse, is the line “until you talk to Gerard Braud.” Gerard is an IABC member I met earlier this year, who conducts this kind of thing, and his point is that you could tell an honest story, stripped of spin, and still have a great media experience.

Which brings me to the whole point of this. A survey of journalists just out (Bulldog Reporter/Techgroup International) on media relations practices. It’s an excellent insight into how journos think, what they do to connect (or avoid) PR spin, and how they stay on top of stories using social media. Among the findings:

  • Only 29% of journalists read 5 blogs or more to keep up with their beat. The positive side of this is that 75% read one blog or more. One year ago, about 26% read 5 or more blogs.
  • RSS usage us low (58.4% don’t use it), journalists abhor phone calls from PR people, and those not familiar with their media outlet.
  • Interestingly, newspapers are still a key source of news for them (so will all those newspapers-are-dead promoters stop making it seem worse than it is?), and a large number of them are big on Electronic News Kits.

So if you don’t want to share the same oxygen as journalists, at least try to make it easy to let them suck in your RSS feed from a distance. And that’s not just your from press releases, and your ‘about us’ page, but from your white papers, interviews, podcasts, blogs & thought pieces (same thing, huh?). We may not trust them, but we could trust them to do their ground work if we give them less puff pieces.

Hey, I can afford to say this because I wear two hats. I communicate with the media on behalf of whom I represent, but I also interview companies for my freelance writing.