Crisis PR – Lost My Temper

By Mark Macias

A US Congressman made national news headlines after he was caught on camera threatening to throw a reporter over a balcony inside the US Capitol. He thought the camera and microphone were off, but to his later surprise, he learned all of America would soon see that exchange.

There’s a great lesson on crisis communications that you can take from this experience. The politician made a classic mistake that many others have made, including Presidents George Bush and Barack Obama.

If you want to be interviewed on TV – or if you think you might get in trouble later with your temper, there are two big lesson you can take away from these situations.

The Camera is Always Hot

I can’t tell you how many times as a TV producer where a person continued to talk when the camera lights were turned off. The interview is never over when a camera is turned down, the lights are turned off or a microphone is nearby. Most people don’t realize how powerful boom microphones can be even from a distance. They can pick up sound even when the camera is not within sight. If you didn’t say it when the lights were on, you might want to refrain from adding more conjecture to the story when the interview is over.

Be Respectful of Reporters

I’ve worked with many politicians on their media campaigns, including US Senate and Congressional candidates. Many politicians seem to have the same DNA make-up. They are used to being in charge, which doesn’t work well with journalists who take pride in their independence.

When these two sides collide – especially with investigative journalism-  it can lead to major confrontations where the person with the most powerful pen usually wins.

Journalists are human, so kindness matters. You may not like the reporter or his questions, but that doesn’t mean you should be disrespectful to him – regardless of whether you think the camera is running or not. Kindness will take you far with nearly any reporter.

I’ve worked with many CEOs and founders who were interviewed by reporters and showed a lack of respect for the journalist throughout the interview. After the interviews, they told me why they didn’t like the journalist.

I get it. I was one of them.

But what everyone needs to realize is that journalists are trained to question and look for motive. If you give them a reason to not like you, you will succeed. Be kind, be courteous and practice what your kindergarten teacher taught you about others anytime you deal with a reporter.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com

Cat and Mouse – Related to PR

By Mark Macias

Why does the cat always catch the mouse? When you think of how agile and quick a mouse can be, he should always be able to outmaneuver the cat. Yet, nearly every time, the cat will always catch the mouse.

That’s not just a fun question. It’s actually a way of thinking that applies to public relations.

First off, I don’t claim to be an expert on mice or cats. I have never owned a cat and I hate mice, so I am not skilled at analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of mice and cats. But as a person who lives in Manhattan, -and every New Yorker will tell you – “if you have mice, get a cat and the problem will go away.”

There must be some strategy behind a cat’s approach. There is and here is how it applies to public relations and business.

What Cats and Mice Teach us about Public Relations

A cat traditionally studies its prey before it attacks. It tries to understand the mouse’s movements and agility in advance. The cat is more patient. It takes his time approaching the mouse, waiting for the right moment to pounce while the mouse is busy sniffing the ground.

Now let’s take a closer look at the mouse. I’ve watched mice move on the streets of Manhattan and I will never understand why he loses to the cat. The mouse is faster and more agile and should run circles around the puffy paw.

Trust me, I couldn’t catch a mouse on the streets but I guarantee you I could catch a cat if I needed to. The mouse – on the surface – has every natural talent to win the household game, but it doesn’t because he is afraid.

In the world of PR, you should study and understand the journalists you want to pitch because you only get one chance. If you fire off that story idea before it is completely developed, you risk losing an opportunity for coverage.

Many clients want to see results quickly, and as a business owner, I understand. I want to see a high rate of return as well on my investments. But if the execution of the strategy is rushed and sloppy, you risk losing out on solid media placements.

Fear of Failure Destroys PR Campaigns

Fear is another failing item that can’t be associated with public relations. A creative media strategy requires confidence in an idea and strength with the execution. You can’t be afraid of creative ideas when pitching reporters. Sure, I’ve come up with some crazy publicity stunts and not all of them worked. But a good majority did. If I was afraid of failure, I would have missed out on the home runs. The same applies to your business. You can’t be afraid like that little mouse.

Finally, the mouse fails because he doesn’t think. If you have observed any mouse in a kitchen after turning on the light, they don’t react to change well. Their bodies scramble without direction. It’s like they are immobilized by the sudden change in environment. As a publicist, you need to be able to adapt quickly to change. If you are getting multiple rejections from reporters than it is highly likely your strategy or media pitch is off and needs to adapt to the moment.

If you’re trying to succeed with media placements, you really do need to think like the cat but move like the mouse. If an idea doesn’t seem to be catching on, listen to the feedback of reporters. Are you missing an element with your idea? Does the reporter need more evidence to support the story? Be nimble and respond to their questions. Be like the mouse – fast, agile and quick to respond.

In the cartoon, Tom & Jerry, the mouse always won because he out-thought the big, slow cat. Of course, that is the land of fiction, but since the Tom & Jerry narrative was created by a real person, I can now understand why little Jerry won every time the two battled wits. The publicist or business that out-thinks the competition, usually wins.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR or MarketYourFund.com