Some thoughts about getting your story across from former journalist turned trainer Roy Heffley

THERE ONCE WAS A CABINET MEMBER...

In the years I worked for ABC News inside the Washington Beltway, it became apparent that some people knew how to get their story out and some didn't. This even applies to those 25 men and women holding cabinet-level posts in the federal government..

Sure, they had very qualified press and PR people who did the behind-the-scenes work. But the public doesn't want to hear about our government policy-makers -- we want to hear from them, and my job was to bring interviews back to my network that would grab audience attention.

I can recall one Cabinet member who worked very hard at getting attention and succeeded -- for a time. He called me often at ABC, began each interview in an upbeat manner, spoke with dynamic flair, and always had a ready quote with a catchy phrase. But I quickly learned I was wasting my time with him.

It became glaringly apparent he was from the "Give 'em your message no matter what they ask!" school of politicians. No matter what the question, he'd give a glib, prepared answer that I had heard before or read in his press releases -- often not even relevant to the question I had asked. Years ago, this method sometimes worked. Not today. So I stopped taking this Cabinet member's calls. I knew all I'd get would be a speech and no answers.

There was another Cabinet member who was a real favorite of mine. He got plenty of media exposure through me because he gave responsive, meaty answers to my questions, and when he couldn't answer, he explained why. He came across as a caring, knowledgeable, trustworthy person, in contrast to the other guy.

The point of all this is, communication in a question and answer environment is tricky but of great use to those seeking media exposure if they know what they are doing. It's a learned art. Most people who prep politicians tend to teach defense or offense, but rarely both. Defense is handling the tough questions effectively. Offense is getting to your agenda.

Good communication is doing both. That's the win-win situation. The reporter gets a good story and appreciates you as an ongoing source. The interviewee gets the chance to have his or her messages heard -- and to look like they have nothing to hide.

The same is true in the corporate world. Looking back from the other side of the news glass at all those years I was determining who got interviewed, it's clear what the deciding factor was: a person's ability to deal with the questions while achieving his or her own agenda. It is a learned art. And now I enjoy helping people become better at it.

 

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