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.