Tag Archives: interview

That’s Not What I’m Here To Discuss

Also known as “No Comment”

nocommentHere’s some PR analysis from Matt Wilson at Ragan.com on a recent interview with former Israeli ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren. As reported at Mediaite, after MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell posed a question about spying, Oren’s earpiece (conveniently?) had “technical issues.” Coincidence?

Another approach could have been to state, “Sorry, but I’m not going to offer you any insight there…” then steer the discussion back to his message: “what I can tell you is…” and then: key talking points.

Other phrases useful in this situation:

  • “I’m not going to speak to that, but…”
  • “I understand your question, but we’re here today to talk about…”
  • “This has been addressed elsewhere (only if so), but right now…”

The lesson here is to acknowledge the inquiry directly and politely, but not offer any additional information — then promptly get the conversation back on message. It can be tricky in the heat of the moment, especially on a controversial issue, but this can also be a more honest approach in the direction of getting PR right. It’s more likely to help ensure an interviewee’s points are heard, and is far friendlier than a blunt “no comment.”

Check out these additional options offered by Ragan’s PR Daily: Alternatives to “No Comment,” and see this video of awkwardness compiled by Huffington Post of politicians dodging reporters.

What do you think? Have you ever been asked something where your only answer was “no comment?” Do any examples of question-dodging come to mind? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Fomer NSA Director Interview via Amtrak. Thanks, Twitter.

Train conversation further cements Twitter as a social media/mass media, real-time, citizen-journalism news outlet.

Tom Matzzie and Michael HaydenAmtrak passenger Tom Matzzie live-tweeted an on-background interview between news media and former NSA director Michael Hayden (also ex-CIA director) from a commuter train known as the ACELA. It was fascinating to watch this play out, minute by minute on Matzzie’s Twitter feed, and later by traditional media. As this was happening, Hayden was alerted by his team, approached Matzzie offering to chat, and even posed for a photo.

The entire episode is now secured for the ages in the form of tweets and the ensuing news coverage.

The Rest of The Story: Cocktails?

Here’s more from Matzzie, himself, by phone, via Soundcloud, speculating as to why the former official may have been so candid:


It’s particularly mind-blowing that the former head of an organization whose focus is security would be so loud on a train, but hey, Hayden is, in fact, now a public speaker — even if, in this case, inadvertently.

What do you think? Have you ever followed a live tweeting of news in real-time? Have you ever been a citizen journalist, or cited by the media for your social media activities? Let us hear from you in the comments.

Last Book Read: Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead

The last book I read is Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead by Neil Strauss. It’s a collection of interviews that Strauss feels are particularly revealing about some high-profile personalities. Strauss is a well-known author and longtime interviewer for magazines such as Rolling Stone, and was formerly on staff at The New York Times.

What I like about this book, besides the content, design, and the insight into the mental workings of some charismatic and sometimes famously reclusive celebrities, is the fact that it is a collection of powerful yet digestible works. I have never had the patience for the long-form novel, especially nonfiction.

Not Into Books? This book is for you.

This may sound odd, coming from someone writes professionally and also has a degree in English. But maybe it’s because I had so many dull reading assignments foisted onto me through my academic career that my favorite form of literature is a well-crafted article, interview or story. Flannery O’Connor is, by far, my favorite short story author of all time.

I can count on two hands the number of long-form books to truly engage me, ever. You may think this is a sad confession, but I can in no way count the number of interesting articles, magazines or other short-form compositions I consume continuously every day, every night, on the weekends, and probably in between.

I’ve always been a news junkie, and my work in PR is fueled by that fire. Many other PR professionals are also avid newshounds. So it isn’t that I’m  uninformed or ill-cultured (but that’s debatable), rather it’s just that I enjoy reading especially good writing in concentrated bursts. If you also fall into this category of reader, definitely check out Strauss’ engaging collection of interviews. Here’s a review I wrote about the book on Amazon.com:

Compelling Sketches, Interview Style

I’d love to see this book’s unedited manuscript, or especially Strauss’s notes, because that would mean being a modicum closer to the personalities in these pages — something you’ll want to do with at least several since the interviews are like rhythmic character sketches, with journalistic precision. Definitely my favorite of 2011.

rsmithing at Amazon.com

What do you think? What’s the last book you read and really enjoyed? Are you familiar with Neil Strauss? Are you more of a magazine person than a book person? Or is the opposite true for you – why do you think that is? Let us hear from you in the comments!

Homeless Hotspots? What Could Go Wrong?

Update 3/14/12: Interview with the Homeless Hotspot creator, Saneel Radia of BBH Labs and program participant, Dusty White via Marketplace.org (see below).

The PR for one thing. Hoo boy, where to begin…

As reported at Buzzfeed then ridiculously blown up by Gizmodo and expanded upon at Wired, homeless people of Austin are earning some cash by providing wi-fi access at the South By Southwest event. On the surface, it seems legit: money and jobs for the homeless who provide a service in demand. But wow, has it backfired:

Homeless Hotspots

Hyperbole much, Gizmodo?

What’s this doing in the Horror section? It’s not like these people are actually being turned into routers – they’re just carrying routers around. We aren’t living in The Matrix (yet… or are we?). Point is: this headline and its categorization give the story just enough spin to evoke plenty of Internet ire.

The Matrix - We are not there... yet

The Matrix – We are not there… yet. Image credit: sector930.com

What Went Wrong

For the record, I think this is an okay venture, but really bungled from a public relations perspective. It sure doesn’t help that it has a lighthearted name like “Homeless Hotspots.” Or that it was created by the well-intentioned-yet-vaguely dystopian-sounding BBH Labs, who refer to it as “an experiment.” Or that BBH Labs is actually a division of marketing firm Bartle Bogle Hegarty. It’s common enough for marketers to be cast as insidious without fodder like this, whether justified or not.

In fact, if you read the comments at the above article, they overwhelmingly call out Gizmodo on the casting of this as some twisted bionic procedure, pointing out the actual benefits, something BBH Labs is now having to play fireman on by defending the effort. Says Saneel Radia, creator of the idea:

“Basically the seed was to try to help the homeless during SXSW. Our goal is to reinvent the newspaper model. It’s intentionally attention grabbing.” He stresses that they’re not advertising anything – except perhaps BBH itself – and that the money goes directly to them.
-via BuzzFeed

If it’s attention they wanted, well, congratulations are in order. But what didn’t work at all here was the execution. Setting expectations ahead of time to diffuse the ensuing sensationalism would have gone a long way, something BBH Labs is no doubt realizing now that they’re in “full damage control mode.” It’s a damn shame their energy is now being put into damage control rather than furthering the core idea, but hey, at least they’re getting attention, right?

What They Should Have Done

  1. Watch The Matrix
  2. Brainstorm every sensationalist headline that could result
  3. Then don’t do anything to further that along

Simple, right? Do you think that happened here? Doesn’t seem that way. It’s PR 101: anticipate the negatives. By doing this, the creators could have generated some pre-buzz or gotten their story out there first with must-airs that take on what is now coming at them left and right. The focus could have been more on the project than putting out fires. Developing pre-game strategy in this case might involve things like:

  • Not calling it an “experiment”
  • Not advertising for BBH Labs
  • Telling the stories of how the project came together
  • Tapping the SXSW blogosphere for coverage
  • Distributing QR codes taking customers to a mobile-friendly site at purchase explaining the cause and enabling them to donate to Front Steps, the organization that helped BBH Labs put it together.

These are just the first things that come to mind in the time it takes me to type them. For all I know all this happened and more. If that’s the case, then it’s a sad commentary on the snarky nature of online discussion blowing things out of proportion.

If this did not happen at all, it’s a strong case for having your PR together before initiating a venture that could bring backlash, especially with a project involving connectivity… at a conference on technology… given the snarky nature of online discussion to blow things out of proportion.

Update – Homeless Hotspot Creator, Saneel Radia, and Participant, Dusty White, Speak:

Hear directly from the program’s creator, Saneel Radia in an interview at Marketplace.org. Radia does state they anticipated some blowback, and are learning from the endeavor:

It would be naive not to think that this is going to be debated. By putting this model out there, and letting people debate — this is what worked in their program and this is what didn’t work — we’re actually uniquely qualified to say, we can take our licks for whatever we got wrong. What we’re motivated by what the people who adopt it get right as a result.
-Saneel Radia, BBH Labs, via Marketplace.org

Marketplace also interviewed a Homeless Hotspot participant, Dusty White. That interview is here. Kudos to Marketplace for giving broader voice to the idea behind and to an actual participant in this program. As they aptly state, there’s “way more to the story than met the ear.” And Mr. White goes on to say, “it’s not what you achieve in life, sir, it’s what you overcome.”

What a great takeaway from this entire endeavor.

Homeless Hotspot Participant Interview

“It’s not what you achieve in life, sir, it’s what you overcome.” Interview with Homeless Hotspot participant, Dusty White at Marketplace.org.

What do you think? Could any amount of PR have made a difference here? Is this in fact a decent idea that was poorly handled? Or is the idea just not a good one whatsoever? Let us hear from you in the comments.