NoKo: How NOT to do a photo op

All eyes are on the summit between President Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un as they decide North Korea’s nuclear future. Every step they take and move they make will be analyzed, and the opportunity for Kim Jong-un to use this meeting and its optics as propaganda is very real.

Though most of us won’t ever have to worry about appearing too friendly in a photo op, President Trump and members of his Administration should.

Kim Jong-un is the worst human rights violator of our time. He has killed members of his own family, he tortured and killed American Otto Warmbier, and there are estimates of up to 120,000 political prisoners in North Korea today.

Because we don’t want to legitimize the brutality of Kim Jong-un’s regime, it’s imperative that every photo op between him and Trump signal diplomacy, not friendship.

Here’s a study in what to do/what not to do from Secretary Pompeo’s first meeting with Kim Jong-un:

#1 — Keep your happiness in check

Yes, we want North Korea to be a better actor on the world stage, but it’s never a good look to laugh with a murderer. Maintain your composure and accept the gravity of the situation.

#2 — Remain cool

This photo is much better, but Pompeo’s hand on Kim Jong-un’s back seems a little too familiar. They aren’t friends. They will never be friends. So, there’s no need to act otherwise. The only acceptable contact is a hand shake to demonstrate business has been done.

#3 — Repeat after me

This photo is a perfect demonstration of how to pose with the worst human rights violator of our time. No smile means all business, and the only contact is a handshake which signals diplomacy not friendship.

This meeting will be a true test in discipline for President Trump as he loves a camera and a microphone. Fingers crossed the gravity of the situation will outweigh his desire to say cheese (or start another international bromance).

Religious Liberty, Presidential Pardons, and #MeToo

So much has happened, and it’s only Tuesday. Given the busy, busy news cycle, we thought we’d highlight the teachable moments from yesterday’s top stories:

#1 — U.S. Supreme Court rules in favor of Masterpiece Cakeshop

This story has been making headlines for a while, so Jack Phillips and Masterpiece Cakeshop are now household names. Which is the point. You want to fight for someone rather than against someone, and the only way you’re able to do so is by connecting a face to an issue. The importance of this case for religious liberty doesn’t change, but you’ll win more hearts and minds any time you can talk about a person instead of a wonky policy or legal case.

#2 — Trump threatens to pardon himself

In a bright and early Monday morning tweet, President Trump reminded the Twitterverse that he has the power to pardon himself:

In case you’re asked to respond, here’s a block and bridge:

Q: President Trump claimed he has the power to pardon himself – do you support his claim?

A: “The Constitution does allow for a President to pardon himself, but my hope is that the result of this investigation will be clear and swift and not warrant any threat of a presidential pardon.” Then immediately transition to your talking point as we assume you don’t intend to address presidential pardons in your interview.

#3 — Bill Clinton makes an impeachment claim

Bill Clinton is back in the spotlight to promote a book he coauthored with James Patterson, which you may not have realized because the sound bites from his latest interview cover every topic BUT the book. This is a PR nightmare made worse by Clinton’s hypocritical attempts to label “bad behavior” in others. To avoid a similar fate for you or your boss, remember that it’s not a good move to call out someone else’s indiscretions when you haven’t apologized for your own. It’s best to start with “I’m sorry.”

TED TALKS: Hand Gestures

So far in our TED Talk series, we’ve talked stage presence and visual aids. But there’s one more very important element you should consider – hand gestures.

It seems we never think about our hands and how we move them, until we’re on stage with an audience to entertain.

What you do with your hands depends on the stage setup, so here are 3 easy-to-follow “if/then” guidelines for your next TED Talk-style presentation:

#1 — If you’re given a handheld or lavalier mic…

…use hand gestures. This situation gives you the most freedom, so take advantage. And when you’re not gesturing, keep your hands at your sides.

#2 — If you’re standing behind a podium…

…don’t white knuckle the podium. There is a tendency to grasp the sides of the podium simply because it’s in front of you. Even if you’re behind a podium, you can use hand gestures. Though the audience won’t see most of them, the movement adds energy to your presentation.

#3 — If you’re someone who doesn’t gesture with their hands…

…your TED Talk-style presentation is not the time to start. We want you to be authentic on stage, which means you can’t incorporate new behaviors just because you think it’s the right thing to do. So, if you’re someone who doesn’t use hand gestures, keep your hands at your sides. DO NOT awkwardly grasp your hands in front of or behind you.

Before we sign-off, let’s take a minute to consider appropriate hand gestures for the stage and screen. Our recommendations are simple:

  • Don’t point.
  • Don’t chop.
  • Don’t illustrate.

You want your hand gestures to give your presentation energy and not detract from your message. Pointing separates you from the audience and seems condescending; chopping is harsh and uninviting; illustrating your point with your hands is a distraction.

Instead, think small, circular movement at waist-level. Doing so invites the audience to be part of your presentation.

TED TALKS: Visual Aids

Visual aids are great, until they’re not. Use them correctly, and your message is impactful and easy to understand; use them incorrectly, and no one will remember what you said.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you prepare for your TED Talk:

#1 — Visual aids are meant to be…visual.

The biggest mistake people make is to include too much text. Just remember that it’s a careful balance, and the text you include should emphasize your message, not compete with it. Instead, think images, videos, and sound effects.

#2 — Be strategic.

Visual aids can both enhance your presentation AND act as an outline for you, the presenter. What do we mean? Include images, videos, sound effects, and text that remind you of your next point.  The confidence monitors at your feet allow you to see the current screen and the upcoming screen, so rely on your visual aids instead of a separate outline to keep your presentation on topic.

#3 — Use spell check. 

About a year ago, Sen. Maria Cantwell (now referred to as “Sen. Cantspell”) failed to use spell check in her argument against the Republican health care bill. This mistake cost her the message. Though tedious, make sure every word you use is spelled correctly. The extra effort is worth it.

TED TALKS: Stage Presence

The Ted Talk format is becoming increasingly popular. We’ve worked with quite a few clients recently who find themselves anticipating a Ted Talk-style presentation, but no real understanding of what that means beyond the bright lights and imposing stage featured in YouTube clips.

In order to demystify the process and encourage you to present your best selves on stage, we’re going to offer a tip a week over the next few weeks. Let’s start with stage presence.

#1 — Use the stage.

If the stage is properly lit, and the AV team hands you a wireless mic, then you’re expected to use the stage. This is great news, because you’ll be better able to engage the audience. The podium creates a barrier, so view a podium-less stage as more casual and therefore friendlier to you and the audience.

#2 — Don’t wander aimlessly.

Be purposeful in your movement – pace slowly to one end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. Then pace slowly to the other end of the stage, stop and deliver a few talking points. If you really want to prove to the audience that you know what you’re doing, time your stopping point with a critical point in your remarks.

#3 — Don’t turn your back to the audience.

If you turn your back to the audience, you cut off communication. Always face forward, even if there are screens behind you. The venue should provide confidence monitors at your feet so you know what the audience sees on the screens behind you, which means you have no reason to turn around.

TUESDAY TIP: Reporters have an agenda

We’re just going to say it — reporters have an agenda. Therefore, don’t ever walk into an interview with the expectation that you’re about to engage in a fair Q&A. You’re not, and you never will.

Don’t believe us? Listen to this exchange. Ed Helms reveals what it was like to interview Daily Show participants. The discussion starts around 1:17:00, but here’s a snapshot:

Ed Helms: “But I’m not a real journalist. I have a game I have to play and a script I have to stick to.”

Interviewer: “That they don’t even know they’re playing, really.”

Ed Helms: “Usually they do know that they are playing a game. They just overestimate their own defense mechanisms and their own ability to handle it. The people that knew the show the best were often the easiest to hoist on their own petard because they were cocky. And they don’t even consider the fact that you get to walk away and sit with the footage for two weeks and use whatever part of it you want. You have the final say. They don’t.”

Interviewer: “It’s a rigged game. And not in a bad way…”

Ed Helms: “It is very rigged. Listen, I’ll say it: We took advantage, sometimes.”

But don’t let Ed’s honesty keep you from agreeing to media hits. Instead, use it to your advantage.

Here are the three things you need to keep in mind as you walk into every interview:

#1 — Just do it
Agree to the interview. Even if the reporter has an agenda, he/she can’t put words in your mouth.

#2 — An interview isn’t a Q&A 
Don’t ever treat an interview like a Q&A, because it isn’t. Instead, take control. You should walk in ready to deliver your talking points, which you can do by blocking and bridging. Acknowledge the reporter’s question, and then pivot to what you want to talk about.

#3 — Your audience is at home
Even though the reporter is standing in front of you, or talking to you via an IFB, your audience is the viewer/listener. You aren’t trying to convince the reporter of your talking points, you’re trying to convince those who will read, listen to, and/or watch your interview.

TUESDAY TIP: Tax Day Talkers

While we’ve cheered the passage of tax reform at the federal level, there’s still plenty to discuss and reform at the state level. And Tax Day presents you with the perfect opportunity to do so!

One way to highlight the need for tax reform at the state level is to use comparisons. Comparisons are powerful, because oftentimes people don’t realize how good or bad their state’s economic performance is until they view it in light of neighboring states or the majority of states around the country.

But there are a lot of states, and a lot of numbers to accompany each state’s economic performance.

For this reason, we suggest you check out the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) just released report Rich States, Poor States. It breaks down your state’s performance and outlook based on fifteen policy variables. This is a fantastic resource you should use to cite data points that support tax reform at the state level.

Now, go forth, play up that state pride, and use Tax Day for good!

Spring Must-Haves for TV

Though the weather hasn’t gotten the memo, today is the first day of Spring. Warmer temps and sunnier days are ahead, which means you need to consider how you’ll switch up your TV and public appearance wardrobe. Below are a few of our favorite recommendations for ties, dresses, and products to usher in the new season.

Winter leaves us with very little color, so don’t hesitate to fake it ’til you make it in these first few days of spring. Jergens is the best we’ve found to help you do so.

Couple warmer temps with the anxiety of a media interview or public appearance and you’ll want to take extra precaution to guard against sweat. We recommend packing a travel size deodorant to reapply right before you step behind the mic.

Happy Spring!

Secrets for Q&A Success

Speaking in front of a live audience can be terrifying. Not only do you have to prepare and present talking points to keep the people engaged, but you will likely have to answer questions at the end.

Sometimes Q&A provides insightful commentary and allows you to talk more in-depth about an issue; other times, you field a filibuster and/or hostile questions you’d rather not answer.

It’s a risky situation, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself and the audience.

Here’s what we suggest:

Step #1: Set ground rules. You might think this is an unnecessary and condescending step, because who doesn’t know how to handle themselves during Q&A?? Turns out, a lot of people.

Before you take the first question, explain that you will only respond to questions (NOT comments), and the questions need to be brief to allow as many people as possible to participate.

Step #2: Don’t follow Justin Trudeau’s lead.

We get it, Q&A is unscripted and less formal. Anything can happen! But a joke or petty correction that leaves you apologizing days later means it was better left unsaid.

Even if you disagree with the premise of the question, or the words/phrases used, don’t insult the asker. Kindly reframe the question, and then block and bridge to the response you want to give.

Now, go rock that Q&A.

How to avoid speculation

Much has been made about the timing of a big legislative victory for Republicans before the 2018 midterms. Will tax reform be that victory?

President Trump certainly hopes so – remember that one time he asked for a bill by Thanksgiving?

Because no one knows for sure what will happen or when, you’re left to speculate if asked about a timeline. But don’t give in!

Here’s how we recommend you respond. Hint: remain hopeful.

 

Q: “Will the GOP get tax reform done by the end of the year?”

A: “I can’t speculate on a timeline, but I am hopeful that Americans will finally get a tax break. <Insert talking point.>”

 

Wherever you take the conversation next, emphasize all the reasons you think tax reform should pass, not whether it will pass. And remain hopeful in your response. Tax reform is a good and necessary move, and we want to emphasize that message whenever we’re asked about it.

Need more messaging help and/or media polishing? Become your best self and contact us today.