Your Image with Crisis PR

By Mark Macias

It’s not what you say, but you do that is remembered by others, yet surprisingly few people remember this during a crisis situation.

Sociology studies show body language makes up 55 percent of our communications and when it’s replayed on TV, it becomes even more pronounced.

The former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, seemed to forget this during his crisis that forced him out of office.

For those who don’t remember, he was accused of trying to sell President Barack Obama’s old US Senate seat.

But the crisis visual got worse when the cameras were rolling and decided to go for a job, knowing full-well that the media wanted to ask him questions.

He put on his running shoes, left his home, and a throng of reporters pursued him while he ran away from them. He apparently didn’t think ahead into what this image would say to viewers watching the news.

Television needs a visual to support the story, otherwise it’s just radio.

TV reporters always new video to advance the day’s story.

Blagojevich gave reporters their new visual that kept him in the news cycle. In addition, he gave TV reporters video they could write to.

If you are ever ambushed by a reporter, don’t run from the camera or put your hand in front of it. That will only make you look guilty.

Instead, be polite the reporter and explain why you will speak with the reporter if he or she takes the time to call your office.

As a former investigative producer with American Journal, CBS and NBC, I can tell you reporters love the ambush interview because it makes for great TV. Viewers stay tuned when they see a clip showing a person running from the camera – and believe it or not, they like it when you push their camera away.

So next time you are in a crisis mode, don’t let your image take a back seat to kindness. The camera will thank you for it.

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.

How to Break Bad News to Others (or the Media)

By Mark Macias

You probably don’t realize it, but crisis communications skills are used almost every day in your personal life.

Why were you late to dinner?

What do you think of the new young hire?

Did you follow-up with the potential client?

All of these questions have double-blades that can get you into trouble.

Crisis Communications Advice for Business Owners

Here are a few principals you can apply from my crisis communications book – Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. These are tactics I learned from my media career as an investigative producer when everyone on the other side of the camera was the villain.

Be Transparent

If you project any vibe that you are hiding something, clients will run from you and the media will run to you.

The best investigative stories have conflict and when reporters discover a subject lied in their interview, they have instant conflict for the story.

As a journalist, my radar flashed red lights when I noticed the interviewed subject was avoiding my questions. Be direct with your response. Don’t mince words when asked direct questions or reporters (or anyone else) will become suspicious.

Stay Ahead of the News

It is much easier to put out a fire before it starts and it’s no different with the media.

You can better manage negative news when you are in control of the message.

I’ve run several crises campaigns for nonprofits and politicians where their lawyers were closely involved with the media strategy. Of course, their attorneys wanted them to say “no comment” for legal purposes, and I understand why. But in the court of public opinion, this approach doesn’t work.

When it comes to journalism, you give reporters cart-blanch to write any story if you refuse to comment. Don’t make it easy for them.

Don’t Lie

You get caught lying and all credibility is lost. It might seem easier to lie your way out of the problem when you think no one will know, but trust me, that is myopic. And if you’re dealing with a seasoned investigative journalist who has prepared for your interview, you are in more danger by lying when the cameras are rolling.

Just ask former Congressman Anthony Weiner about that. If you forgot about that lie, it’s on YouTube and will likely be there for eternity. (Here’s an article I wrote on why I suspected he was lying before he confessed. Hint: he forgot.) Yet another reason to tell the truth. You won’t forget what you said years down the road when your story is emblazoned on the Internet.

Macias PR was named the 2016 “Financial PR Firm of the Year – USA” and the 2015 “PR Consultant Firm of the Year – USA” by Finance Monthly. We have launched and led media campaigns for clients in healthcare, finance, tech and the nonprofit sectors. The founder of Macias PR – Mark Macias – is a former Executive Producer with NBC and Senior Producer with CBS in New York. He is also a PR contributor with CNBC, providing media analysis, insight and crisis advice on timely business topics.

Media Training – The TV Interview

By Mark Macias

You’re prepared for the job interview, but are you ready for the TV interview?

I recently interviewed a high-level executive with a major tech company. It was for a story that would run on the web.

Minutes before he sat in front of the camera, the corporate communications woman handed him a briefing document for the interview.

As the producer, I stayed quiet and listened.

This was a friendly interview and the questions were all softballs, yet this executive made the same mistakes that I continually saw throughout my TV career.

The executive tried to read from a script when he should have been speaking from the heart and mind.

Media Training 101

If you do any TV interview, throw out the script.

Don’t try to memorize sentences because you will forget no matter how much Gingko is in your system.

And if you’re preparing a briefing document for a client, don’t write out long or even short sentences. In fact, don’t write out any sentences. Instead, communicate the thoughts that should be expressed in the interview. Those bullet-points will force your client to understand the issues rather than memorizing sentences.

Media Training 201: Understand the Topic 

In the case with that C-level executive, I was shocked because he knew the content, but his communications person was unfortunately confusing him with sentences that were from her heart and mind – not his.

After 10-minutes of watching this executive stumble over simple words, I asked the cameraman to stop rolling and politely asked the executive to throw his briefing document in the trash.

I reminded him that he knew this topic. He needed to tell me what he knew – not what someone else thought he knew.

Less than 2-minutes after the camera started rolling again, he gave us the best sound any producer or viewer would want to hear because he spoke from his heart, not from memory.

Media Training 301: Speak from the Heart – Not from Memory

If you know the topic intimately and speak from the heart, you won’t mess up when you are under pressure.

It’s when we fight the nervous energy that our anxiety becomes more pronounced and we forget what we are supposed to say. So embrace that emotional energy and remind yourself that the best communicators always communicate on a level where others can feel it. If you feel it, your audience will feel it if channeled in the proper way.

That’s something you won’t get from a script written by another person.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. 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.

Find Your PR Gimmick for Publicity

By Mark Macias

Everyone needs a gimmick when it comes to PR and it’s no different than living in New York City.

As any New Yorker will tell you, if you want to stand out at a cocktail party, you need material to push you above the crowd. Some call that personality; others call it charisma. I like to call it a gimmick.

It’s no different when branding a product, business, or service with the media. You need to discover what your gimmick is if you want the media to take notice.

Now before the critics start breaking down that statement with comments like, “That is shallow,” or “Execution beats style,” –  I agree with you.

But let’s take off that analytical cap for a sec and discuss this idea not in black and white terms, but in gray terms – which is where publicity lives.

Many entrepreneurs rightly assume that “gimmick” implies a form of forgery or scheme of deception. Think of it as a way to distinguish your business from the crowd.

There are hundreds of public relations firms in the U.S., so my PR firm, Macias PR, needs to stand out from the packed field.

What’s my gimmick?

I am a former journalist who understands intuitively and intimately how the media works. I’ve been inside (and run) those morning news meetings where stories are approved and killed.

I know what it takes to get a story on the news.

That is what separates me from other publicists.

It’s no different for your business. If you can’t identify your gimmick, then you are in trouble, because consumers have no reason to buy your product.

What was President Obama’s “gimmick” when he ran against Sen. John McCain? Barack Obama was the man with hope. I’m sure Mr. Obama believed it, but that was, in essence, a gimmick.

So if you are starting a business (and it doesn’t matter what you are selling), you’d better discover your gimmick before the doors are opened. If you need to brainstorm on a future gimmick, ask yourself what you can do to stand out from the crowd. Sure, it’s a simple question, but most lawyers, accountants, and medical doctors don’t acknowledge that question on day one.

Perhaps that is because they are choosing to use their left brain over their right brain.

Now that I think about it, these are probably the same people who are arguing that a “gimmick” is shallow and will never work.

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. 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.

 

Negative Political Press

By Mark Macias

In the political press game, you’ve got to respond to bad press, quickly and loudly.

If you don’t defend yourself, people will assume you are guilty. It’s a form of public opinion that goes back to high school.

Remember when you used to hear rumors about someone in high school? You always assumed the gossip was true unless the person came out and denied it in a credible way. The laws of human behavior haven’t changed since then. If a source is credible, most people are going to believe the bad press has merit unless there is a strong denial involved by the accused.

It’s no different in politics.

If your candidate is accused of doing something that he or she didn’t do, make sure your denial is clear and crisp. There must be no reading between the lines. Don’t mince words when you tell the reporter or producer that the allegation is false. And if you talk on television, don’t give viewers an opportunity to draw their own conclusions. Make it easy for them to believe that the accusations are false.

Be clear in your denial.

President Bill Clinton was a master communicator and he articulated his denial to perfection when he told America in 1998 the allegations against him involving Monica Lewinsky were false: “I want to say one thing to the America people. I want you to listen to me. I’m going to say this again. I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

The President sounded sincere, honest and straightforward in his denial, and many people, including myself, assumed he was the victim of dirty politics.

But What Happens when the Accusations are True?

I’m of the journalism school that subscribes it will almost always hurt you to decline an interview with the media, regardless of whether you are guilty or innocent. If you say no to an interview, you have virtually no chance of shaping the story’s coverage.

However, if you say yes to an interview and artfully prepare your statements you can at least maintain damage control.

There are several reasons why I say it will almost always hurt you to not talk to the media. The most important reason is you give a reporter full reign to pursue his or her story when you decline to speak on the record. You effectively remove a reporter’s checks and balances by refusing to respond to the allegations.

Mark Macias is author of the crisis communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. He has run crisis media campaigns for politicians and nonprofit organizations. You can read more at MaciasPR.com.

 

 

Crisis Communications – The NRA

By: Mark Macias

(This story was originally published in 2013 following a school shooting. Here’s a shortened edited version of that article)

I don’t like the sight of guns. I don’t like the smell of guns. I don’t even like talking about guns, but the NRA is delivering a great crisis communications lesson for any business facing an image crisis.

Here’s what the NRA did wrong and right in their crisis following a 2013 school shooting.

The NRA let time pass

The NRA waited for time to pass. Frequently, I advise clients to get in front of the story or else the narrative will be written by your opponent, but this is a perfect crisis communications case study where that does not apply to ALL problems. The NRA would have been foolish to speak while children were being buried.

That is pretty much one of the few things I believe the NRA did right following that horrific school shooting. Here is a more detailed list of what they did wrong, along with why it was a poorly executed communications plan.

Don’t Cast Blame

Wayne LaPierre with the NRA blamed the media, video games and even crazy people for their PR problem. That’s a mistake. The NRA thinks Americans should have the right to carry assault rifles that were designed for war. They need to take responsibility for that position and not blame others. If you are in a crisis situation, don’t blame the victim or even the shooter. Turn the situation into your favor by presenting why your side has a positive view. The media won’t report the good side of your story unless you present it and it is your job to communicate why your service helps others.

Put a face on the problem

Right now the NRA is facing a tough public image problem. It’s guns vs. little children.

That’s challenging because most parents and adults have instincts to protect children from harm. It’s a difficult fight, but the NRA needs to put a new face on this problem. They need to move the conversation away from assault rifles and back to the image of a father and daughter hunting together. As long as the debate surrounds military assault rifles, the NRA loses.

Bring a solution

If you are facing a crisis communications situation, you always want to bring closure to the problem. It lets the public believe (and hopefully it is the truth) that the problem won’t happen again. The NRA tried to bring closure to this problem by saying armed guards in front of our schools would prevent violence. It won’t or as a Facebook friend more eloquently posted, it’s like bringing a “knife to a gun fight.”

It sums up why the NRA needs a better communications strategy if it is ever going to persuade the parents in America.

 “Hey Mr. NRA douchebag…our banks are protected by armed guards and they still get robbed, our president is guarded by armed secret service and still gets shot and even killed. One armed cop on each campus won’t stop crazy folks from going there. Your press conference was a joke, and you are a joke of a man. Blame the video games, movies and music…yet not offer a single solution to try to keep your precious lil gun out of crazy folks hands. You suck!! Oh yeah, said crazy person comes to school with multiple semi automatic guns…lone cop has a pistol…what’s the saying? Bring a knife to a gun fight? Then your answer will be we need cops with semi automatic rifles you douchetard. Way to bring nothing to the table today except more guns, you kind sir are a complete assbag!!”

Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC, Senior Producer with WCBS and Special Projects Producer with NBC. 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.