Presenting the WRONG Way to the Media

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Nobody's born knowing naturally how to speak to the news media. But some people do learn at an early age. When I was in my 20s, I was oppressed spokesperson for a member of Congress. And I remember one day and the office there and Capitol Hill these majestic buildings are in it's really all inspiring. The phone rings and it's a reporter from roll call. One of the local newspapers that call that follows all the policies and all the legislation Capitol Hill.

And the reporter says, TG I'm doing a story on your boss's legislation, hr 1400. hr 1400 is unclear. I don't understand it. And I'm hoping you could clear it up. I said, Sam, I'm happy to your right. hr 1400 is unclear. It's being cleared up in committee and when it does, you'll see it does x and that is why I didn't I explained it to him.

Reporter was incredibly friendly, polite, nice TJ, thank you so much. I really appreciate your professionalism. Thanks for getting back to me right away. answering my questions appreciate. hung up the phone kind of popped out my chest thinking wow, I am good at this reporters happy, thanks on great. And I go home that night.

And I go home and I pack my suitcase because I'm so excited. I'm working for a Hawaiian member of congress and I'm about to fly to Hawaii the next day. I can't wait. My whole life. I've seen images of Hawaii, the beautiful sunsets, the volcanoes. So I packed my suntan lotion, my Hawaiian shirt, my sunglasses.

I walked into the Capitol the next day. Put my suitcase down. There on my desk is roll call. Okay, there on the front page is the story about this legislation. Oh, there's my name. According to press spokesperson TJ Walker quote, hr 14 Hundred is unclear.

On page c 27. This was before the internet was actual paper on page c 27. There were more quotes for me nothing particularly bad or critical. I'm explaining the details. But the only quote on the front page is me saying my boss's legislation was unclear. Few minutes pass the buzzer rings on my phone.

It's the chief of staff. TJ, I want you to come on into the office. Go into the chief of staff's office, says, TJ I got good news. And I got bad news. The good news, you're all packed. The bet is you're not going to Hawaii.

You're not going anywhere. You're fired. Get out of here. kicked out fired that day. What am I done wrong? Well, I can Did it Cardinal blunder of using the reporters words I use the reporters negative words?

Unclear. Therefore, I attacked my own bosses legislation when you call something unclear it's a form of an attack, and attack is one of the 10 soundbite elements. For any of you who've been in my immediate training courses, you'll know that. So I answered the wrong way I reacted. I used the reporter's words I use negative words. It's kind of like when a politician gets caught saying I am not a crook.

Well, what's the only quote gonna be? I'm not a crook. Now, it wasn't the nastiest criticism. It wasn't harsh me but it was still criticism of my boss. Now, can I claim that I was misquoted? Well, no.

I actually said, Can I claim that I was quoted out of context? I could, but nobody cares because every quote is out of context. You can never complain By being quoted out of the context, when you are presenting your ideas to the media, so I deserve that quote, and I got what was coming to me. Smart people learn from their own mistakes, other people's mistakes. So the reason I tell this to you today is so that you don't learn the hard way and lose your job like I do. And you actually protect yourself so that you know how to answer questions correctly in a news media interview.

Okay, so what did I just do in that story there? I let people know. And I use this story when I'm conducting, typically a day long media training course. I use this story for several reasons. Number one, I want people to know, I'm not just some natural born genius that they can't relate to. I mean, if you go to basketball camp, from Michael Jordan, he may tell you some good things, but at some level, you're thinking Well, I'm not Michael Jordan.

I can't just sail three feet above the rim and slam it down. It's almost like his advice isn't worth as much because he has so many natural gifts. I want people to realize, I don't have any natural gifts. I don't have some innate talent for this. This is learn behavior. And I tell them this for a couple of reasons.

I want them to realize that this is stuff I learned, therefore, they can learn it too. I also want them to realize there is a danger of talking to the media if you're prepared. I also want them to know that there is a very specific danger of using a reporter's words back to them in an interview, so there's actually a couple of lessons there. That's why I use this story.

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