A memorable SOTU response for all the right reasons

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, can take back the response. Read how in DMG president Beverly Hallberg’s op-ed in the WashingtonExaminer.com.

DMG in WashingtonExaminer.com: Chris Christie should let Americans in on his weight loss journey

“If Governor Christie wants to connect with Americans on a national level, he needs something more than quotable sound bites. He needs to show he cares and understands the struggles of every day Americans, and I believe he can do that by opening up about his weight-loss journey on his own terms — something he still has yet to do.”

Find out how Gov. Christie can connect with more Americans in DMG president Beverly Hallberg’s recent WashingtonExaminer.com post.

Blurred Lines: When the tie doesn’t make the man

They say “the tie makes the man,” but too often the tie competes with the man.

Ties with small patterns cause movement and appear blurred on screen. If a man wears a small-patterned tie, he risks shifting the audience’s focus from his main message to his “dancing” tie.

The technical term is “The Moiré Effect,” but the important point is that small patterns cause big problems on the TV screen. Thankfully, this problem is easy to avoid: Don’t wear a tie with a small stripe, dot, or pattern. Wear a solid, or keep the stripe but make it large.

“What difference does it make?”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is typically on message.  Notably, the man never misses an opportunity to state his disdain for the Koch brothers.

But Mr. Reid was off his game in a recent interview.  While answering questions on the release of Sergeant Bergdahl, he uttered the words that have been played over and over in the media, and not because they worked.  He repeated Hillary Clinton’s infamous phrase, “What difference does it make?”

While most of us won’t recycle Hillary Clinton’s words, we often say things that do anything but make us sound relatable and likable.

When we say…

  • “Kick the can down the road” – We sound cliché (and like a politician).
  • “First Amendment” – We sound out of touch (sadly, not everyone knows what the First  Amendment is).
  • “That’s a great question” – We sound like we’re stalling (and we probably are).

Instead, we should use words that make us sound like, well, a real person.  For example, say…

  • “We can’t delay any further” – It means the same thing, but without the Washingtonian jargon.
  • “Free Speech” – Who isn’t for free speech?
  • “Let me put that into perspective” – It’s never a great question anyway.

So, do your words really make a difference?  Yes.  Your words can determine whether someone tunes in or changes the channel.

Wardrobe Malfunctions: fur coats and lapel pins

Besides the complete one-sided play of Superbowl XLVIII, the other story of the big game was Joe Namath’s coat.  While only 49 degrees, Mr. Namath decided to dress for the Arctic. 

His over-the-top fur was the talk of sports shows and news shows alike and not just because PETA was less than amused.  We were all left wondering, what was he thinking?

But most wardrobe malfunctions are not due to a complete departure from sanity.  Most are due to clothing that may make sense in person, but have no place on TV. 

In comes Mitt Romney – a man known for anything but over-the-top and flashy.  A man known for a navy blue suit, white shirt, and red tie – the true Republican uniform.  But even the most vanilla can make mistakes on TV.

On the campaign trail, Mitt Romney chose to wear an American flag lapel pin complete with a secret service star in the center. 

While in day-to-day conversation this lapel pin is easy to discern, problems arise on TV.

During Mitt Romney’s first answer in his first of three presidential debates I, like so many others, Googled “what is on Mitt Romney’s lapel pin?”  Through the lens of the camera, it was impossible to know what the dot was and our attention was focused on figuring it out.

The main rule of TV clothing is that clothes should enhance but never distract.  If the audience is focused on what you wear more than what you say, it is a wardrobe malfunction.

“I am not a bully” and how to avoid incriminating yourself

In January of this year, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie held a two-hour long press conference explaining his involvement — or lack there of — in the “Bridgegate” scandal. 

While the Governor’s focus was to emphasize that he knew nothing about the scandal, questions turned towards the governor’s temperament — as they often do. Reporters asked him, “Are you a bully?”

By most accounts, Christie handled the press conference well, but his response to that one question became the focus of the USA Today Weekend front-page story. The headline read, “I am not a bully.”

There have been many memorable quotes over the years of famous folks declaring what they aren’t:

  • “I’m not a liar.”
  • “I’m not a crook.”
  • “I don’t beat my wife.”
  • “I’m not a witch.” (My all-time favorite.)

These quotes, of course, were responses to accusations. But saying what you aren’t is a horrible idea.

In addition to the public automatically believing you are guilty of what you’re saying you aren’t, the quote becomes memorable and cemented in people’s minds whether you are truly guilty or not. The quote becomes the story.

You can’t avoid acknowledging accusations, but can control your response. The best way to handle negative accusations? Craft the negative statement into something true or positive about you, your organization or your position.

While you can’t change the question, you have the power to change the narrative.

If Governor Christie would have rephrased the negative question and responded with, “I treat all my staff with respect,” the front-page story may have been focused on the actual scandal, which was Bridgegate.

Welcome to District Media Group!

I started DMG in 2008 because I noticed a common trend. Knowledgeable and engaging people suddenly freeze-up when the camera starts rolling.

People tend to present their “worst self” on camera. But, through understanding the basic interview techniques — including messaging and body language, among others — people can present their “best self” on camera.

While setting up an individual media training session is always best to understand your strengths and weaknesses, I hope you’ll follow the tips and tricks of the trade either way.

Look forward to working with you!

— Beverly