Will you kneel?

For the past two weeks, we’ve watched speech mobs dominate the protests and coerce politicians, cops, and Members of Congress into binary discussions to no productive end. As president of District Media Group Beverly Hallberg explained in her latest article: “They demand you condemn issue X and publicly shame you into specific action or silence if you have a different perspective.”

The speech mobs have attached themselves to several issues in recent days—lockdowns, defunding the police, etc.—but the script is always the same. We’re presented with one choice over another, and the space for debate is limited.

One of the binary questions that candidates and politicians can expect to face is: “Will you kneel?”

We’ve watched some already answer this question by kneeling. But others have chosen to stand in “solidarity,” and many haven’t kneeled, including a black state trooper who said, “I only kneel to God.”

What if you’re asked to kneel and you don’t plan to? Do you know how to respond?

True—the mob won’t be satisfied unless you comply with their demands. But in an effort to reach out to and work with people, it’s important to not be coerced into action. Issues are nuanced.

Here’s how we suggest you respond to someone else’s demand that you kneel:

“My posture is always going to be to stand. To stand up for people in this country and fight for <insert talking point>.”

If you shift the focus from kneeling to the bigger issue they think kneeling addresses, you take control of the answer and the rest of the conversation. It’s easier to have a productive debate if the conversation revolves around the issue and not the symbolism.

How to talk about the ERA

In February, the House of Representatives voted to reconsider the Equal Rights Amendment. And just this week, FX is set to launch a mini-series detailing conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly’s fight against the same in the 1970s. For these reasons, it’s a timely issue to message.

But it’s also a tricky issue to message because arguments in favor of the ERA are highly politicized and emotionally-charged.

Here’s how we suggest you talk about it, with the help of the Independent Women’s Forum:

#1 — Start with common ground.
Even though we don’t support the ERA, we agree that women should be treated equally under the law. The good news is: women already enjoy equal treatment under the law as it’s illegal to discriminate based on sex. But you first have to state that equal treatment of women is important to you BEFORE you transition to why the ERA is bad legislation so people don’t immediately dismiss your argument.

#2 — Use examples to show that erasing sex distinctions is harmful to women.
A provision of the ERA is to erase sex distinctions, which is harmful to women. Examples abound and will help you make this point — “separate restrooms and locker rooms in public schools; the military draft for males; Social Security spousal benefits; the Department of Agriculture’s Women, Infants, and Children program; the Violence Against Women Act; grants for girls’ STEM training; and more.” Women would lose these benefits in the name of “equality” if the ERA becomes law, meaning we would be less safe and less free than we are today.

For more information about the ERA and why it’s harmful to women, check out the Independent Women’s Forum policy focus here.

Virtual Training + Coronavirus

Stuck at home out of an “abundance of caution” to protect yourself and others from coronavirus? Us too.

So, why not use this time to refine your media interview and/or public speaking skills? DMG offers virtual training for all experience levels from the comfort of your home.

Just like our in-person training, virtual training focuses on best practices for media interviews and public speeches. Our team will work to identify strengths and weaknesses as well as strategies to further refine visual, vocal, and verbal performance via the same real-time practice and critique as our in-person training.

If virtual training sounds like a great fit for you and your staff, email info@districtmediagroup.com for rates and availability.

The One Word Rule

One-word answers to a reporter’s questions are never a good idea until they are.

Secretary Pompeo proved the effectiveness of this strategy in recent interviews around Soleimani’s killing. In the interest of safety and strength, he was right to answer serious questions like “Any plans to evacuate the embassy in Baghdad, sir?” and “Any plans to pull some of the 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq out?” with a simple “none.”

“None” communicated his point, left no room for misinterpretation, and underscored the severity of the situation. But it’s also interesting to note that he didn’t lean into the interview with a one-word answer. He first gave a 30-second assessment of what happened, which enabled him to be concise in his following two answers.

We often encourage clients to fill the time they’ve been given because you only get so many questions to communicate your message. But if the nature of the interview is such that national security is at risk, one-word answers are not only allowed but recommended.

Tax Day is coming.

Monday is Tax Day, and we can expect a lot of confusion over refund size because of tax cuts. The common narrative by Democrats is the tax cuts benefited the rich at the expense of the middle class. But that’s incorrect, and we encourage you to spread the good news.

Here are two important things to remember when talking taxes and tax returns in 2019:

#1 — Refunds = Interest-Free Loan

Let’s not misunderstand what’s happening when you receive a refund from the government. The government is not giving you money, the government is returning your money. The money you receive in a tax refund is your money, but you’ve allowed the government to hold it interest free over the past year.

#2 — Check Your Paycheck

According to Money.com, smaller refunds are likely a result of larger paychecks — “In other words: ‘You’ve been receiving the tax cuts every two weeks’ for the past year.’” This is actually very good news given point #1. Because employers had to change how much money they withhold from employees under the new tax law, you get to keep more of your money throughout the year RATHER THAN having it returned to you via a lump sum during tax season.

Critics are likely to point to smaller refunds as proof that the tax cuts only benefited the wealthy, so use these two talking points to expose their false narrative.

How to talk about the Green New Deal

The Green New Deal (GND) hits the Senate floor this week. Though it’s been in the news since its release, coverage will increase in the next few days as we watch the Senate presidential primary candidates decide whether to back up their vocal support with a vote.

Increased coverage means you should be prepared to field a question or two in your upcoming interviews. The good news? So often it’s difficult to visualize the impact of legislation –- how will it affect pocketbooks, what changes day-to-day, etc. — but tangible examples abound in the GND.

Here are a few of our favorites:

#1 — Cost
Total cost is roughly $93 trillion, which is a meaningless number to quote. Instead, break it down to cost per household = $419,000. There is not one single household willing to expand their budgets by $419,000/year. Not one.

You can also use a comparison to emphasize the sticker shock. The CBO has estimated that the moon landing would cost $225 billion today (which is a lot less than $93 trillion). AND WE WERE ABLE TO PUT A MAN ON THE MOON.

#2 — Eliminate air travel…
…in favor of high-speed rail. Given the recent high-speed rail fail in California, this seems like an impractical suggestion.

#3 — Everything is free
Literally, everything. The GND promises free money to those “unable or unwilling to work,” free jobs, free education, and free housing for EVERY American. 

The legislation is outrageous and unworkable as the facts and figures suggest, and you only need to highlight one or two examples per interview to prove your point. 

***

BONUS — If you’d like to stay away from facts and figures, here’s a block and bridge to highlight the absurdity:

Q: Don’t you think the GND is the best answer to a pressing issue?

A: “Why take seriously something the authors of the bill aren’t ready to put their names on? The very day AOC unveiled this plan, she removed it from her website and voted against it on the House floor.”

For the People Act

Though most Americans agree it’s wrong to punish someone for sharing their viewpoint (as free speech is highly valued and continually fought for), House Democrats are trying to codify this type of discrimination into law. 

The euphemistically named “For the People Act” will make its debut on the House floor this week, and if passed will expose the names, addresses, and other personal information of every American who generously donates money to an organization, cause, or campaign. 

Though most Americans agree it’s wrong to punish someone for sharing their viewpoint (as free speech is highly valued and continually fought for), House Democrats are trying to codify this type of discrimination into law. 

While the name of the bill (“For the People”) suggests helpful legislation to stop corruption and expose how money is spent in politics, it actually does something far more dangerous — it makes every American a target.

For this reason, it’s important to speak up and out about it. Here are a few suggestions:  

  • A great line to use: “Transparency is for government, privacy is for people.”
  • You can emphasize that you’re actually fighting for the people they claim to be fighting for: “No American should be forced to have their name put on a list for simply making a donation.”
  • And if you want to make a comparison: “Passage of this legislation is like asking every American who donates money to wear a bumper sticker for the cause.”   

Every day we hear stories about discrimination on social media, violence on college campuses, and harassment on street corners if you openly support a cause someone deems “wrong.” Allowing passage of the “For the People Act” will only increase the frequency of intimidation for those who choose to show support with their pocketbook.

Gov. Northam: A Cautionary Tale in Crisis Management

You don’t have to be a PR professional to understand that Gov. Northam absolutely failed in his response to a racist photo that surfaced last week. Between his initial reaction on Friday to the follow-up press conference on Saturday, there’s a lot to talk about.

We want to focus on something that people in the public eye struggle to do—admit they’re wrong. Responding to a crisis isn’t easy as you risk destroying personal and professional relationships, but Gov. Northam’s “apology” fell short as he gave into the popular narrative of “I’m not that person.” 

Here’s how we think Gov. Northam should’ve handled the situation:

  1. Don’t say “I’m not that person.” 
  2. Instead, admit you’re wrong and say you’re sorry.
  3. And then explain what you’ve learned/how you’ve grown since the incident.

It’s painful to admit you’re wrong, but this strategy is much less newsworthy than a denial, reversal, and offer to moonwalk. If you get out in front of the story, the story will never exist.

How to talk about the caravan

As the caravan slowly makes its way to the U.S. border, it’s important we talk about it not in hyperbolic terms but factually and carefully. The media and politicians have promoted a narrative that makes doing so difficult — if you attempt to deny or counter their talking points, you risk being labeled heartless, racist, ignorant, etc.

But you have the power of proof (over opinion) to lean on. A great resource to use is this report by an MSNBC correspondent:

Here’s the key takeaway — “The truth is, the majority of the people that are in this caravan, especially outside — if we can make our way all the way over there, we’ll show you the majority of them are men…From what we’ve seen, the majority are actually men and some of these men have not articulated that need for asylum.”

His report is directly opposed to the narrative promoted by the media and politicians, but his example reveals the truth. We suggest you use it to your advantage when confronted by questions about the caravan. It’s more important now than ever to make sure we have and promote the facts, which you can do via examples.

BEWARE: Early Voting

The media are hungry for predictions ahead of midterms, and they have their sights set on early voting. But as we’ve warned (here and here), making a prediction leads nowhere good. The safe play is to answer the prediction question by pivoting to what’s more important.

Here’s what we mean:

Q: Voter turnout for early voting is high at 8.1 million and counting, with more Republicans casting ballots than Democrats. Does this mean the “blue wave” is receding?

A: “The high voter turnout is interesting, but it’s too early to make a prediction about results and the “blue wave.” No matter which party controls Congress post-midterms, the issue we need to focus on is <insert talking point>.”

Acknowledge the high voter turnout but refuse to make a prediction. The more substantive answer will pivot to a pressing policy issue. And if they push you to make a prediction, push back by explaining that early voting numbers don’t give us the data we need to make an accurate prediction. Sure, it’s interesting that a lot of people have turned out, and that a larger number of Republicans have cast votes, but there is no guarantee that a registered Republican voted for Republicans.

EXCEPTION: If you’re working on a campaign, you have to predict that your candidate will win. No matter how unlikely it seems, a victory is always the right (and expected) prediction.