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Step Away from the Remote

posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2013 by Meghan Butler

News on various technologyFor as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed – OBSESSED – with news media. I grew up with the Big Four. Brokaw. Jennings. Koppel. Rather. I’d watch Peter Jennings on ABC every night with uncharacteristic rapture. I cried the day he died. Just as I was terribly upset when Rather’s tenure ended in chaos and scandal at CBS Evening News. Not to mention the awful-rotten-no-good-day I had when Diane Sawyer retired from ABC’s Good Morning America.

Like music for most, the news is my underlying narrative. It is this deeply realized obsession that informed my career from day one. And conversely, my career has indelibly changed my interest in the news. Surely you can imagine my glee with 24-hour news channels!

Case in point: I can no longer “just watch the news, for Pete’s sake!” (That was my mother talking. She still won’t tell me who Pete is, only that he wasn’t a Jennings.) My interest far exceeds the story itself. Perhaps it introduced me to a new reporter I should know. Or the nature of the story is the obvious (and brilliant) work of a PR person. Or a company did an incredible job of managing a crisis (I’m not talking to you, Carnival). Maybe the subject matter is important to our clients. My completely unreasonable amount of daily news consumption – and everyone else’s at DVL – informs our work.

If our delusional interest in the news has taught me anything, it’s this: Not all brands require media attention, but they should always be prepared for it. Perhaps it is the worst-case scenario that will put you or your colleagues in front of a camera or a microphone. Or maybe it’s the best-case scenario. Either way – when your time comes – what will you do?

Will you end up like Will Ferrell’s Ricky Bobby in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby? (Solution: Try the traditional “fig leaves” clasp in front of you. Or unfurl a paper clip in one hand casually behind you to channel your nervous energy. Also, articulate like a human and not in grunts.)

Recently, as I was not-at-all casually watching The Today show while getting ready for work, I got pulled into the Manti Te’o news cycle. Other than the absolute ABSURDITY of the whole thing (bless his heart), one part stood out like a scream in a quiet place: the exclusive interviews with Diane O’Meara – the woman whose image was misappropriated for the fictional Lennay Kakua.

In her first interview, she is naturally well-spoken but guarded, uncomfortable even, in a pre-recorded conversation. Who can blame her? She was unwittingly placed in a defensive position to clear her name for someone else’s nefarious actions.

But only a short time later, in a live interview with Today’s Savannah Guthrie, O’Meara was clearly studied and on-message. She answered the questions crisply, addressed Savannah directly and asserted her discomfort and disbelief. She even turned her naiveté into a story of compassion. (This is also where I give her a high five for great posture.) The most evident case of media counsel – likely by her attorney – comes at the very end: she took advantage of a bigger issue by redirecting the tabloid nature of the Manti Te’o story and turning it to the national conversation about social media privacy. (Even though she voluntarily provided the photos. But we’ll leave that whole privacy issue up to the Supreme Court.) I stopped putting on my make-up and gave this girl a standing ovation.

I say all of this to simply convey one thing: When considering a communications partner, find the folks that are obsessed with what you want or need to accomplish. Let their passion guide you so you can successfully protect your own interests.

The real question remains: Are you a fan of the Today Show? Or Good Morning America?

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  • Jon

    The Today Show of course

  • James

    Today Show!