August 2009

What You Say Really Does Matter

There is a power in words.  A power to create and build … or to cause damage and destruction.  What you say really does matter and those who realize that potential can turn words to their advantage.

The ability to deliver information and opinions through the media can be a great opportunity.  Corporations and governments utilize (some will say “use”) the media to achieve their goals, be it to sell a product, encourage attendance at an event, or to influence the decisions people make in the voting booth.

Often reporters look to company executive or government officials to comment on important issues, from economics to healthcare issues.  Serving as an expert source for media interviews is a great way to increase your company’s profits.  But while well-chosen words can help a business, ill-chosen ones can have serious negative consequences.

With the opportunity to present your views through the media, comes the onus of using that “bully pulpit” responsibly.  That means thinking ahead to the messages you want to deliver and making sure that you are fully prepared for interviews.

Vice President Joe Biden, for example, is well-known for his media gaffes.  During a recent live national interview, he was asked about flu epidemic.  He created a firestorm when he said he would advise against riding the subway or taking commercial air flights to avoid the flu.

At a time when fears about the flu were at their height, Biden’s comments were ill-considered and had the potential to cause serious economic damage to the public transportation systems of many U.S. cities and to the commercial airline industry.  The mayor of NYC, who regularly rides the subway to work, castigated him for his comments.  Within minutes, Biden’s office was issuing “clarifications” of what he’d meant to say.  While his comments were fodder for the 24-hour news cycle, the quickly issued statements following his comments seemed to minimize the damage.

So why is it that some people seem to revel in the media spotlight, and are often sought after by reporters for their knowledge and expertise, while others flounder when the camera starts rolling?

The reason is simply that they prepare for their interview opportunities, rather than arrogantly thinking they can “wing it” with little to no preparation.

Successful spokespersons have a clear idea in advance of what they want to say.  They practice delivering those messages with colleagues or a professional media trainer.  They anticipate — as much as possible — all the questions the reporter might ask, the negative possibilities as much as the positive ones.

If you prepare well, you end up as a regular on the weekend talk shows. If you don’t, you’re featured on YouTube.

Moves & News

Atlanta Journal-Constitution– The paper has combined the business section into the A section.  Also, the Sunday Travel, Living, and Arts & Books sections have been merged into one section.

Atlanta Inquirer – David Stokes is now Associate Editor

Brookhaven Reporter – Publisher Steve Levene reports the launch of a new paper, the Brookhaven Reporter.  The new paper joins the Sandy Springs and Buckhead Reporter papers.

Douglas County Sentinel – Cathy New is now publisher.

GoDekalb.com – The site has relaunched (www.godekalb.com)

Paulding County Sentinel – Cathy New is now publisher and Scott Pittman is sports editor.

WXIA – Chesley McNeil joins as morning meteorologist. Chesley comes to Atlanta from WGRZ Buffalo, NY.

Departures

Southeast Performer magazine has closed down.

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