You probably have read today that the 2020 debate last night was, to quote one CNN reporter, “a shit show” and while I’m not here to talk about politics, there’s a lot that we can take away in terms of Public Relations and Communications in looking at last night’s media dumpster fire.

You’re talking to your audience!

  • No matter who is interviewing you and who else you may be interacting with, you must focus on your audience and your ultimate customer, not your competition!

Do not be combative.

  • Very few company spokespeople or CEOs are baited or harassed during media interviews (maybe that’s a bad thing?) but as a business spokesperson you need to understand the conversation is not really between you and the reporter or the media; it’s between you and your customer, who just happens to be using that particular media. The goal is to stay focused!

Understand the entire media environment.

  • When you are speaking publicly, it’s not just your customers who are watching, your competition is watching, as well as your stakeholders and varied audiences. You have to maintain your brand and your reputation because in this 24/7, always-on world literally the entire world can watch your performance and make judgments about you, your brand, and your organization.

Sound bites!

  • The long explanation or rambling musings that you give are not what the media is going to report. They are going to report the soundbite—the short headline that either summarizes your presentation or pulls a direct quote. So you can say 100 reasonable things, but if you make one off or crazy statement, you can be pretty sure that’s going to be tomorrow’s headline. Stick to your talking points! Otherwise you end up explaining 10% of your conversation later and your key points are missed.

Know your audience.

  • But also know that they are biased, we all are, and they already know what they want to hear. Sometimes presenting in a hostile or critical environment does more harm than good. If your goal is to convince people to change their minds on an issue or topic, you’re going to have to move very carefully to lead them through that process and your presentation has to be airtight in order to do that.

Understand Body Language.

  • Body language experts love to watch candidates debate because the intensity is so impactful and so much of the performance. Remember to use your body to carry your message.
    • Walk purposefully
    • Mind your facial expressions
    • Manage your vocal tone
    • And always, make eye contact!

ALWAYS, always, ALWAYS do a thorough name search before you launch

  • It might be confusing for some, but on Twitter, Proud Boys US is a a queer, pan-gender, multi-cultural organization who will not apologize for their space in the modern world. There are going to be some very confused website searchers this morning!

Update: As often happens, my Twitter friends had suggestions for me to add:

Katie Kern, partner at Media Frenzy Global says:

  • Stick to your key talking points
  • Have integrity
  • Be honest

Tech/B2B PR and marketing expert James Gerber has these suggestions:

  • Remain poised and calm under pressure.
  • Focus on your body language and remind yourself that you need to look like a leader
  • Have evidence for what you say