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Media Relations

The First Question To Ask When a Reporter Calls

October 26, 2005 | By | 4 Comments

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“Hello Mr. Journalist from the main stream media, I’m glad you called. Am I a target or a source?” Your Business Blogger has had the misfortune of being both.

But not at the same time, like Karl Rove.

Charmaine, The Dreamer,

Jack, c.1995

phone.gifIn any conversation with a reporter you are either Richard Nixon, or Deep Throat — a target or a source. You are not a friend.

Repeat after me: not a friend.

And it is often difficult to determine hidden agendas. But you can be prepared by knowing what kind of person is on the other end of the phone.

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Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC’s Hardball, named his show after his book (for which he received a well deserved $75k book advance). Chris tells us how most reporters get started in their careers.

Their entry-level job begins with covering the police blotter on the night shift. This is where journalists become inhuman.

Whenever there is a tragedy — a death, a dismemberment, anything that bleeds — the cub reporter is dispatched to the home of the grieving family.

He knocks on the door of the home of the dead one and secures a picture of the recently deceased from the crying mother/father/widow/spouse/sibling.

“I’m sorry about your dead daughter. Can I have a picture or two of your girl for gawkers and trolls?”

Thank you for the picture. Have a nice day.

Three days later the girl’s face in the newspaper looks up from the bottom of a bird cage.

The reporter on the other end of the phone does this for a living. He does not care about you — only the story — the journalist soon becomes calloused and cynical. And look for blood even if they have to do the cutting.

Which is (one reason) why the mainstream media hates Karl Rove. He won’t bleed.

And reporters hate bloggers: we still have our humanity.

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Thank you (foot)notes:

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Chris Matthews

Mahablog has updates.

Betsy’s Page rightly asks why?

Pundit Guy also has questions.

Outside the Beltway has Traffic Jam.

Basil’s Blog has Matthews praising Fox.

Mudville Gazette has Open Post. And while you’re there visit Chromed Curses with Casualty Notification Officer. A positive reverse image of a journalist.

WizBang has more links.

Adam’s Blog has trackbacks.

The Political Teen has Open Trackbacks.

Stop the ACLU has mid-week party.

(Something good from print media: Don Suber) writes on perjury.

The Heretic has cat rove.

Legal Fiction has view from the Left.

Sic Semper Tyrannis says indictments are coming — Richard Sale is a vector for a source.

Best of Me Symphony has the best blogs.

Read More

Bill Bennett and the First Law in Public Debate

September 30, 2005 | By | 2 Comments

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Yoest, Yoest, Bennett, c. 1998

Bill Bennett, host of Bill Bennett’s Morning in America made a statement in his morning commentary and made a story in main stream media.

He said, words to the effect, if every black child were aborted we’d have less crime.

His transgression was not merely the unfortunate unknown terrible cause and effect, but that Dr. Bennett violated the First Law in Public Debate known by media savvy professionals:

1) Don’t do Hypotheticals.

If a question or a rebuttal starts with, “If” change the subject. If you are thinking “If” change you mind.

“I don’t deal in hypotheticals,” is the only verbiage used if “If” comes up.

Bill Bennett is guilty of nothing else.

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Full Disclosure: Your Business Blogger(R) was awarded his very first consulting contract in a minor role for Bill Bennett when he was Secretary of Education under President Ronald Reagan.

Thank you (foot)notes:

Ace has Freakonomics backstory.

Junkyard Dog has busybody in chief.

Outside The Beltway has more on Bennett.

Right Voices has making a point?

Mudville Gazette has Open Post.

Drakeview has this week’s Carnival of the Capitalists.

The Political Teen has Open Trackbacks.

Captain Ed has Bogus Journey.

La Shawn Barber is thinking about writing on Bennett. She could add to the debate.

Scandal 101: Free Consulting If Chuck Schumer is Your Boss

September 24, 2005 | By | 2 Comments

If you work for Senator Chuck Schumer (D) you do not have friends in the growing storm. Your world is changed.

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Charmaine Yoest on phone

Top of Chuck Schumer’s head center

Your only friend is your lawyer. And even here you are not your legal counsel’s friend. You are now what these economic rent seekers call a “client.”

Your Humble Business Blogger has been on both sides of the table dealing with the FBI and legions of lawyers. You cannot win, even if you don’t lose. You will cry. Start now.

The Schumer scandal is in my current state of Maryland involving purloined documents from our Republican Lieutenant Governor Steele. The Democrats are doing the purloining . You, Schumer staffer, are guilty.

Your counseling sessions should begin with advice from Hugh Hewitt:

First, write down this number: 202-974-5600… for Chadbourne & Parke in DC, … Abbe Lowell. … he is the city’s best bet for criminal defense … It is best to be the first one to the firm before conflicts kick in. Bring your wallet. Probably dad’s wallet, if you are young staffer in over your head. In fact, you’d better tell dad right now.

You will remember Lowell, Esq. and his combat with Ken Starr. As Hugh Hewitt suggests, the DC battlefield requires local guides.

In politics, as in business, guilt or innocence is irrelevant.

At one of my start-ups 15 years ago, we received a letter from a competitor’s legal team challenging our patent. “To respond you need to budget $25,000,” our lawyer said.

“But our patent is air-tight! This is frivolous! Outrageous!”

“Indeed,” our legal counsel almost smiled.

That time the company paid, or, rather, our funders.

Another tangle with a business partner over disputed expenses was mediated by lawyers. Him guilty; me innocent.

No matter, for a year or two the lawyer fees were greater than the Yoest family home mortgage payments. And I don’t get Christmas cards from my lawyers.

Because I was never a friend. And now I am not even a “client.”

So young staffer, even if you could never get arrested, your time has come. You say you are innocent? You never touched, viewed, aided and abetted the stolen Steele stuff?

I once asked Morton Blackwell — who ran the GOP in Virginia — why Clinton’s cabinet stood behind Clinton and lied for him during the Lewinsky event.

“Because,” said Blackwell shaking his head, “Clinton only hires people just like him, who think and act like him.” Birds of a feather kind of thing. (The only exception would be Jesse Brown.)

No, you are guilty. You’re in a barrel headed over Niagara Falls, New York. What now?

Here’s what you do:

1) Hire legal counsel.

2) Resign from Schumer’s office

3) Do exactly what your legal eagles say.

4) Do not go home to NY.

5) Find the cameras.

I was at the Roberts’ confirmation hearings with Charmaine as she lobbied in the lobby. The most dangerous place to be was between Schumer and a camera. But now you must beat him to the cameras, learn to stare into the bright lights and repeat the script your legal team will write. Sincerely. Faking it with your whole heart.

I can help you. email me. I can give you more free consulting.

So, young staffer, this experience will get you prepared when you deal with your divorce attorney in the coming years, but that will be easier.

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Penta Posse

Senate Office Building

Thank you (foot)notes:

Checker Board has Ominous.

Captain’s Quarters has the story.

Atlas Blogged has questions.

Kennedy v The Machine has silence.

And remember, Hugh Hewitt has the naming contest.

The Anchoress is not bored. Which makes good reading for us all.

MaxedOutMama has Schumer Staff Pulls.

GOPinion has more.

GOP Bloggers has the payoff.

Michelle Malkin has the dirty trick story.

Mudville Gazette has Open Post. And while there, see Toe in the Water with dangerous dolphins.

Leadership and Honore: A Reverse Fisking of “Stuck on Stupid”

September 21, 2005 | By | 17 Comments

Lieutenant General Russel Honore gave a press conference today that will be long remembered and will become a part of media relations folklore.

Your Business Blogger has been on both sides of the microphone at a few press conferences. Permit me to ‘reverse fisk’ The General’s performance. Astute observers know that LTG Honore did it right. Here’s what happened on the subliminal level in seven easy lessons.

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General Russel Honore

Look at The General. 85% of all communication is non-verbal and even a clueless reporter might understand that the three five-pointed silver stars might be some indication of rank and importance. (Less than one percent of entry level Second Lieutenants will become General Officers.)

The sunglasses normally don’t work for normal people making a presentation. Eye contact is necessary to establish trust in a small group. But The General is not normal; nor is the situation. The General doesn’t need this rule due to this caveat: In this setting the shades are intimidating.

Think Terminator in Aviators.

Lesson One: Own the Microphone. Set the stage.

Here’s some of what The General said at the press conference:

…by order of the mayor and the governor,

Every elected mayor and politically appointed dog-catcher outranks any member in the Armed Services. The General is respectful of the chain of command. Reporters don’t like and don’t understand hierarchy. Just ask their editors.

…and open the convention center for people to come in. There are buses there. Is that clear to you?

It is perfectly clear. And that is what is so refreshing. All General Officers are subject to Senate confirmation. All General Officers are politicians, and usually sound like politicians. But not this one.

There is no doubt who is in charge.

Lesson Two: Direct message.

…Buses parked. There are 4,000 troops there. People come, they get on a bus, they get on a truck, they move on. Is that clear? Is that clear to the public?

Here we see the different agendas of the politico, Mayor Nagin, and the professional, General Honore. The General is using the press conference and the reporters as a public service forum to accomplish his mission. Mayor Nagin merely wants to be liked and re-elected.

[A female reporter asks]: Where do they move on…

[Honore]: That’s not your business.

You cannot wait for all the traffic lights to turn green before leaving town. What The General was saying was that the plan’s end may or may not be detailed at this moment — the important part is to start. The first phase is known. The plan will unfold in phases, not all at once.

This is how the military works. When a unit moves, the subordinate will report up the chain of command when he crosses the “Start Point” at a predetermined time. Woe to the leader who misses the when and where of the starting gate. Missions and objectives always change, but there must be movement to start.

Lesson Three: Know your audience.

[Male reporter]: But General, that didn’t work the first time…

[Honore]: Wait a minute. It didn’t work the first time. This ain’t the first time.

After action reports are evaluated after action. Not during. Not before. The General is wise enough to never criticize the previous commander — not in public, certainly not in a press conference.

You got good public servants working through it.

Praise in public; reprimand in private. The General will soon violate this maxim, gloriously.

You are carrying the message, okay? What we’re going to do is have the buses staged. The initial place is at the convention center. . and that’s where we will use to migrate people from it, into the system.

The General is a professional in his use of the press: to convey the information The General wants reported.

Lesson four: Get Action

[Male reporter]: General Honore, we were told that Berman Stadium on the west bank would be another staging area

[Honore]: Not to my knowledge. Again, the current place, I just told you one time, is the convention center….

Rumor Control. The only feedback The General wants is to know if bad information is disseminated.

Lesson Five: Do not be distracted

Once we complete the plan with the mayor, and is approved by the governor…

Chain of command, again. But it is now obvious who’s running the show.

… Let’s not get stuck on the last storm. You’re asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don’t get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward…

This is the biggest challenge of press conferences: the collegial need to answer a question. But that’s not always necessary. A reporter’s question should always be handled in one of three ways:

1) I know the answer and here it is.

2) I don’t know the answer and will find it.

3) I know the answer, but I’m not telling you.

The General is using a (very original) version of #3.

…And don’t confuse the people please…help us get the message straight. And if you don’t understand, maybe you’ll confuse it to the people.

Most of the reporters do have the story straight. But good work by The General is not a story. ‘If it bleeds, it leads.’ Mayor Nagin was a bloody fool that made great copy. The General is clean. No story.

[A male reporter]: General, a little bit more about why that’s happening this time, though, and did not have that last time…

[Honore]: You are stuck on stupid.

Few ever spoke to the press this bluntly and survived. And every politician would like to demonstrate such bravery. A reprimand in public; real Non-judicial Punishment. It worked.

The General pulled it off. He does not have to be accountable to the Fourth Estate as politicians must.

Lesson Six: Be honest.

He continues:

I’m not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita. This is public information that people are depending on the government to put out.

Version #3, again.

This is the way we’ve got to do it. So please. I apologize to you, but let’s talk about the future. Rita is happening.

The General is not begging. The General is not sorry. He is using soft wordings as a pillow for the reporter he knocked on his backside.

Lesson Seven: Be Yourself

And we can have a conversation on the side about the past, in a couple of months.

Stuck on Stupid has now entered our lexicon and Honore for the history books.

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Thank you (foot)notes:

Be sure to follow Your Business Blogger(R) and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest

Jack and Charmaine also blog at Reasoned Audacity and at Management Training of DC, LLC.

Charmaine at Reasoned Audacity for Honore.

The Political Teen has the video.

Visit Mudville Gazette and Open Post and while there see bRight & Early with SOS.

Michelle Malkin has links and a question.

Sister Toljah has more as always.

Outside the Beltway has Traffic Jam and while there see BrainShavings with race hustlers.

The Accidental Misanthrope has an outstanding review of Leadership vs. Management. Sustitute Nagin for Manager; then Honore for Leader.

More at Dean’s World at Honore Hero. Follow his links for a pronunciation guide. Good stuff.

SOS is now the war cry for the GOP against the DNC. See CaliforniaConservative and the Arnold campaign.

Chaos-in-Motion is confused about Honore’s presentation. Chaos is left of center, I think.

The Radical Centrist has more on the role of the press.

Dr. De Doc has Birth of Memelet.

Andi’s World has the counter example at bad PR for Code Pink.

Fake News has real humor.

See the best in graphics at PenguinPoletariat.

Update: Any Letter hosted Carnival of the Capitalists.

Be sure to follow Your Business Blogger(R) and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest

Jack and Charmaine also blog at Reasoned Audacity and at Management Training of DC, LLC.

Tears and Leadership

September 7, 2005 | By | No Comments

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Mayor Nagin in grubby T,

tears to follow

courtesy Wizbang

Mayor Ray Nagin cried during a WWL radio interview about Hurricane Katrina. Senator Mary Landrieu shed a tear on This Week while describing “one pitiful” crane working on a levee. The Aftermath is heart breaking and everyone should have a good cry.

But not the boss. Not in public.

A hundred years ago, as a young army lieutenant, one of my first lessons was that, “An ounce of appearance was worth a pound of performance.” How petty! I thought. So superficial!

And so true. But appearances matter.

My first superior in the army was a Captain Aykroyd, a soft-spoken West Pointer who was most patient in providing guidance in the finer points of Leadership. I once was tasked with the delivery of a pink umbrella misplaced by some Colonel’s wife.

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Your Humble Blogger, sunglasses,

sans umbrella

So I was off, with a jaunty step.

“No,” Capt Aykroyd said. “An Officer does not parade about with a pink umbrella.”

I instead wrapped the offensive girly accoutrement with manly red, green and yellow firing range flags and completed my mission. Appearances are an authentic part of the Conduct of Leadership.

I did not need to be reminded to never cry, never blubber in front of the troops.

In World War II on May 13, 1940, Winston Churchill gave his first speech to the House of Commons as Great Britain’s Prime Minister. He famously said:

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Courtesy PowerLine

I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat. We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many months of struggle and suffering.

Churchill offered tears; he didn’t produce them.

He closed his speech thus,

“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

And so must we.

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The Talent Show blames the Feds.

The Mahablog cites cites FEMA as a case study in management.

Happy Furry Puppy doesn’t care for Presidential images.

The Left Coaster would rather see dead bodies than Bush rolling up his sleeves.

Thanks to Outside The Beltway and Traffic Jam.

UPDATE: camedwards doesn’t like Republicans crying either.

Be sure to follow Your Business Blogger(R) and Charmaine on Twitter: @JackYoest and @CharmaineYoest

Thank you (foot)notes,

Jack and Charmaine also blog at Reasoned Audacity and at Management Training of DC, LLC.