Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Thanks to CNN anchor Kyra Phillips, we all know that her sister-in-law is a "control freak." It happened yesterday as the cable network was airing President Bush's speech in New Orleans on the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Phillips took a bathroom break where she confided to a co-worker that she worried about her brother's marriage. One problem--Kyra didn't realize that her microphone was still on. (Here's the audio:)

Just another example of why I advise everyone who is even near a microphone or a camera--always assume it's ON and you're LIVE! Yes, I know that it's really the sound engineer's fault for not turning her off, but you should still make it your responsibility to check before you say or do something that'll end up on the Drudge Report.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

LEADERSHIP / MEDIA MATTERS--The Disaster Continues

Sometimes you see something that just makes you shake your head and wonder how some people get into leadership positions. I was flipping through the Sunday morning chat shows when I overheard this stunning statement on Fox News Sunday:
"We promised you an interview with New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas, but he apparently overslept this morning. Not only did he not make it to our studio for this interview, but we also understand that he missed a briefing on Hurricane Ernesto this morning."

Obviously, this guy missed a major PR opportunity. But compounding his blunder by missing a emergency planning briefing almost a year to the day that his city was almost wiped out by Hurricane Katrina is unconscionable.

As a leader, everything you do is a lesson to the people you work for (or in this instance, the people you promised to serve.) When you show passion, they'll likely show the same passion. When you show you care, they'll care, too. But when you're too lazy to show up for something vital, don't expect your staff to give a rip, either.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

LIVING SAVVY--The Most Important Question You'll Ever Ask

Jack Canfield, the guy who puts together all those terrific Chicken Soup For The Soul books (and America's Success Coach,) just sent me an e-mail with a powerful tool that will instantly make you a more effective person. Here's the email:
In the 1980s, a multimillionaire businessman taught me a question that radically changed the quality of my life. So what is this magical question that can improve the quality of every relationship you are in, every product you produce, every service you deliver, every meeting you conduct, every class you teach and every transaction you enter into?
Here it is:
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how would you rate the quality of our relationship during the last week?”
Any answer less than a 10 always gets this follow-up question:
“What would it take to make it a 10?”
This is where the *really* valuable information comes from. Knowing that a person is dissatisfied is not enough. Knowing in detail what will satisfy them gives you the information you need to do whatever it takes to create a winning product, service or relationship.

Take it to heart--and start asking that question today!

Monday, August 21, 2006

LEADERSHIP--Making Chicken Salad Out Of...

21st century leadership takes a bad situation and turns it upside down to the organization's advantage. (I hope someone at Albertson's is reading this and taking the lesson to heart...)

Alana Lipkin has been banned from a couple of supermarket chains simply because they have guarantees that any mispriced items are free--so she goes in to find those errors to get the stuff for free, as advertised.

The knee jerk reaction was to punish this woman for using a legal loophole for her own benefit. But when there's a wrinkle in your plans--try a little steam before you hit it with the iron. If the powers that be were smart, they'd hire Alana as a consultant to go store to store looking for loopholes so they can fix the problems.

Sometimes you need to reward the people who raise the red's a way to say "thanks for helping us improve!"

Thursday, August 17, 2006

MEDIA MATTERS--All The World's A Stage...With A Camera Waiting For You

When you're in the public eye, making a lot of public appearances, you had better be sure about your public statements. Because chances are there's a camera and a microphone there to record you.

Here's the latest trend on the campaign trail from National Review Online:
" ongoing challenge for candidates. In both parties, most major campaigns now hire “trackers” – people with videocameras who record what opponents say and do in public. The practice is ethical, provided that the trackers neither misrepresent themselves nor stalk candidates in private or closed events. Candidates now have to watch themselves, or their words will rapidly become ammunition for attack ads."

If you're the CEO or spokesperson for any organization that might have inspired opposition, don't be surprised to see this tactic at your next speech. (Here's an example of how to handle it with class and a sense of humor!)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

SPEAKER SAVVY--Don't Be A Slouch

You'd think that anyone willing to go on camera for an important interview would do everything in their power to look good. New clothes, clean teeth, fresh makeup--it's all good until they sit down. And..........slouch.

It amazes me how many people slouch. Maybe they didn't have parents like mine who constantly reminded me to sit or stand up straight. It may have been torture back then, but as an adult, my posture is powerful non-verbal communication that shows I'm confident and in command.

Here's a trick TV anchors and some radio DJ's use to get the proper position so that they come off looking and sounding sharp--sit on the edge of your seat with one foot placed well in front of the other. Try it! It really makes a difference. (And if you're worried about double-chins, lean forward just a little bit more. It'll give you a jawline Kirk Douglas would be proud of!)

Remember, your message--and maybe your reputation--might depend on a little more backbone.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

MEDIA MATTERS--Why You Need A Crisis Plan

The news was filled with reports on the thwarted plot to blow up a bunch of trans-Atlantic flights between London and the U.S. It was riveting TV and radio.

Watching the press conference this morning with Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff reminded me that having a crisis management plan for handling the press is not only vital for government agencies, it's a practical necessity for every business and organization. News waits for no one these days.

When you or the organization you're responsible for becomes the lead story, public perception depends on what you do and say over the first 24 hours. What the press writes and reads in their first few stories--not to mention how they see you handle the crisis--sets the tone for almost every report that follows.

Preparing a media crisis plan is like buying life don't like to think about the inevitable before it happens, but it's nice to know it's there when the inevitable finally arrives.

So what's your plan? I'd like to help craft this important piece of your communications strategy (and for more information on my media consulting services and seminar, go to

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

LEADERSHIP--Corporate Brain Drain

Where are the leaders of tomorrow coming from? Are you developing them within your own company...or are you actively searching other marketplaces for young leaders who can help you continue to grow?

I bring this up because I've been reading about "brain drain" again. This is the sociological phenomenon that plagues smaller cities and regions when their best and brightest leave for the opportunities that trendier metropolitan areas offer. (The mayor of my hometown is trying desperately to stop "brain drain"--a mass exodus he tried stemming before he was termed out four years ago.)

But what about "brain drain" on the corporate level? Have you noticed that your top middle-managers are packing up and movin' on? What's the best way to keep good employees and motivate them to become good leaders?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


I've been interviewing newsmakers and newsbreakers for over 20 years--and I get compliments almost every time because I do my homework. I do more diggin' than James Lipton (the ubiquitous host from "Inside The Actor's Studio" that always manages to find out things like what kind of car Dustin Hoffman drove in college.)

The funny thing is that the more show prep I do, the less preparation my guests seem to take going into the interview. I'm finding that most of these famous folks have little to no idea who they're talking to--and I've had to embarrass a couple of Hollywood heavyweights who dropped a couple of dirty words into an interview for a very family friendly station. They missed out on a golden opportunity to endear themselves to a whole new segment of fans.

If you're scheduled for a radio or TV interview, find out as much as you can about the hosts and what kind of "personality" their program has. Mark Victor Hansen, one of the creators of the "Chicken Soup For The Soul" series is great at this. He personally called me a few days before our interview, just to chat. We talked about our kids, our love of flying, motivational speaking...and wouldn't you know, when we actually did the interview, he managed to weave a few of our common interests into the discussion. It made both of us feel more comfortable (and made us sound like good friends!)

This is a simple, yet powerful formula for success. A little research on your part can make your next broadcast interview sound a lot more entertaining. And make you a better candidate for more radio/TV exposure!

Monday, August 07, 2006


13 years ago today, I made the smartest decision of my life--I married my wonderful wife, Sally. (I'm not sure what's the proper gift for your 13th anniversary...maybe lottery tickets?)

I can honestly say we've never had a fight in all those years. A few minor disagreements, yes. Some hurt feelings from time to time, sure. And once, I made the mistake of telling her she looked a little "frumpy." (The doctors say the limp isn't permanent.) But those tiny turmoils were always quickly resolved and we've never EVER gone to bed angry.

What's our secret? Talk. Lots of talk. I call her from work and always on the way home. If I'm away on business, she schedules short updates so we can catch up during the day. Pillow talk, too, most every night. Not just about the house and the kids, but important life subjects like goals and dreams and faith. You don't get to be best friends without considerable conversation.

What's the point? The point is that if the most important relationship in your life isn't worth regular discussion, how can you hope to be successful in your other relationships? Invest in wordplay. It'll pay off at home as well as the office!

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

MEDIA MATTERS--No Legal Eagles

One of the things that surprises my consulting clients the most is my advice on media crisis management--no lawyers!

Don't get me wrong...your legal advisor should be holding your hand night and day when you or your organization is facing disaster. However, when it comes to offering advice on media matters, your lawyer will almost always be WRONG.

Why? Because lawyers will tell you to tell the press "No comment." The two most dangerous words you can say to a reporter...who will quote you verbatim in their article...which the reader will looks at and immediately think, "Guilty."

My lawyer friends argue that it's unethical to talk to reporters, or that their client's remarks might damage their right to a fair trial. That may be so, but the Canons of Ethics also state that lawyers must always serve the best interests of their clients--and to let the media determine public opinion without any response from the accused is bad legal representation, in my experience.

Negative media coverage will do more damage to you than a negative verdict. Critical news reports can destroy morale, turn customers away, depress stock prices, and influence future relationships. The best legal defense in a courtroom works against you in the court of public opinion. Win the legal battle and lose the media war.

The most effective media crisis strategy is to get an assessment of the legal problems you may create by talking to the press. Then go to your media consultant, weigh the risk/reward and make your decision.