Liar, liar, career on fire!


One of the first lessons our parents teach us as children is, “Don’t tell lies.” But, as everyone knows, it’s easier said than done!


The Lance Armstrong affair proved yet again why public figures should never lie. That includes cheating in sport, education, work and private life.


Until the 1960s, sometimes the media could be persuaded (or paid) not to reveal celebrity misdemeanours – but no more. These days, every juicy tid-bit of salacious gossip is media fodder.


With few exceptions, inevitably the unpalatable truth comes out. And when it does, the offender’s career, commercial partnerships and personal relationships can be ruined.



While lying is never acceptable, there are ways to avoid or minimise the damage to a corporate image from media questions about awkward issues.


The first step before answering a question is to decide whether it’s fair and reasonable. All too often, interviewees struggle to answer irrelevant questions that deserve to be rejected out of hand. Journalists ask these apparently ridiculous questions, called a ‘fishing expedition’ in media jargon, because every so often they get an unexpected catch!


Politicians are particularly adept at deflecting questions they don’t want to answer. Some pollies, such as former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke, have been able to intimidate journalists into not asking them awkward questions at all. (The late Richard Carleton, one of Australia’s finest journalists, cartainly wasn’t one of them.)


A good response to an unreasonable media question is to say, jokingly, “Come on, [interviewer’s name], you don’t really expect me to answer that, do you!”



On the other hand, a relevant interview question about an awkward subject shouldn’t be avoided. “No comment” can be tantamount to an admission of guilt.


One tactic in this situation is to be ‘economical with the truth’. In other words, give no more information than is absolutely necessary.


A short and direct answer, even if it’s negative toward the corporate cause, is better than a vague, long-winded and convoluted response. It may satisfy the interviewer’s interest, and has a better chance of being quoted verbatim.



When there’s been an obvious corporate mistake, the best way to prevent or extinguish media interest in an obvious mistake may be to ackowldge it, provided there aren’t legal implications. A promise to do everything possible to rectify the situation as soon as possible can have also help to rectify or minimise damage to the corporate image.


In these situations it’s important to demonstrate not only that your company is operated by fallible humans, but that they’re keen to put things right as quickly as possible when things go wrong.


On the other hand, denying the undeniable is only likely to keep the media fire burning, and tarnish the corporate image more.



There’s no law against raising an issue that an interviewer hasn’t mentioned. It’s simply a matter of changing the topic!


The original question should be answered first, though. Former Queensland Premier, the late Sir Joh Bjelke Petersen, was notorious for saying what he wanted to say, whether he’d been asked a question about it or not!


He got away with it while he was popular, but eventually the press gallery tired of him “feeding the chooks” (Sir Joh’s metaphor for news conferences!), and they turned against him.



Here are 10 tips for handling difficult media interviews:

  1. Use every interview as an opportunity to get good publicity for your corporate or personal brand.Don’t lie.Try to do any TV and radio interviews ‘live to air’ rather than recorded. This prevents quotes from being edited, possibly out of context.
  2. Don’t lie.
  3. Be polite or at least civil to interviewers, even if they ask apparently irrelevant questions.
  4. Don’t lie.
  5. Dismiss ‘fishing expeditions’ and speculative hypothetical questions.
  6. Don’t lie.
  7. Give short, direct and relevant answers.
  8. Don’t lie.
  9. Look at the interviewer – glancing away can imply dishonesty.
  10. Don’t lie.


Okay there are really only six tips, but “Don’t Lie” is so important that it bears repeating!


Contact Good Publicity to discuss improving your publicity and corporate communications.





Talk(back) is cheap


One of the cheapest ways to get publicity is talkback radio - not by advertising, but by phoning-in!


All Australian capital cities, and most regional towns, have at least one commercial or ABC news-talk station, and they usually reach a significant percentage of the local listening audience. Getting on-air can be like advertising your business to as many as 170,000 listeners on Alan Jones’ top-rating Sydney breakfast radio show. The figure grows even bigger with word-of-mouth and social media chat from people who heard the original broadcast.


Here’s the plan:

  1. Whenever possible, listen to the leading news-talk radio station in your area. If you're not an avid talkback radio listener, find colleagues, staff, friends and family who are.
  2. Whenever you or your media ‘monitors’ hear an issue that affects your industry – it might be in a news bulletin, or a comment by an on-air presenter or a phone-in caller – call the station's talkback line straight away. It doesn't matter what day or time it is. Speed is the essence. Sometimes an issue fades after a few hours, and your opportunity to capitalise on it is lost.
  3. Occasionally the talkback phone lines are jammed, but often you’ll get through surprisingly easily. If you miss out, call another news-talk station if there’s more than one in your area, or try the next session if the issue is still ‘hot’.
  4. When your call is answered, introduce yourself. Be up-front about your industry connection, because that makes you an ‘industry expert’, and will probably put you at the head of the caller queue. If you happen to agree with the on-air presenter's view on the issue, then tell the phone operator. If you disagree, then keep it under your hat. A radio producer’s job is to make the presenter look good, and not be shown up by ‘industry experts’.
  5. When you get on-air, remember that your aim is to get good publicity for your business, not solve a complex issue in 30 seconds. You might get only one opportunity to say something, so unless the presenter introduces you, your business name and location, start by doing it yourself (ie. “Hi, I’m [your name] from [your business] in [your location].”). Leave it at that. Any listeners who didn’t catch your details can search for your website, or contact the radio station.
  6. If you agree with the presenter’s view, then say it in one sentence of 10-15 seconds (a ‘grab’ in radio/TV industry jargon). That allows the presenter to agree with you, with the likelihood that you'll be asked a question in order to give more approval in another brief comment. If you ramble on, you’re unlikely to get a second, let alone a third or fourth, bite at the cherry. But if you keep your contributions short, you could get more opportunites for the presenter to mention your business.
  7. If you disagree with the presenter’s view, then tread carefully. Acknowledge that a lot of people think along the same lines as the presenter (which is often true anyway), but there are other points to consider. Don’t contradict or argue with the presenter, or you’re likely to be cut off and then denounced with no opportunity to reply. That’s bad publicity, and should be avoided at all costs.


Talkback radio calls can just be the beginning. Once you establish a reputation as good on-air ‘talent’, you may find media outlets contacting you when they need an expert opinion about your industry. That could lead to a regular ‘spot’ on a show – or even a new career as a radio presenter!


At the very least, you’ll get your business known to a large number of potential customers – all for the price of a phone call.


Contact Good Publicity for a chat about improving your publicity and corporate communications.






Howdy partner!


Attention aspiring professional sports competitors and team managers. If you've won anything significant recently - a championship, an award or even one event - then you can use it to secure corporate partners (it sounds more professional than 'sponsors')!


Here are some prospecting tips:

  • Keep your website up-to-date with your latest successful results, event reports, photos and testimonials.
  • Prepare a brief generic email that can be tailored to each prospective corporate partner by putting the company name in the headline (eg. "Marketing proposition for [company name]") and at least once in the text.
    Emphasise what you can achieve for a business as its ‘brand ambassador’. Include your proposed 2013 competition program, and your website address as a reference for more information.
    Be realistic about the funds you need to contest your competition program adequately. Don’t under-estimate, which could leave you short of funds before the end of the season, or over-estimate with unnecessary ‘extras’.
  • Send the email to the marketing manager of each company, with "Marketing proposition for [company name]" in the Subject: field, and "If you do not want to receive marketing emails from [your name], reply with 'delete' at the top of the message area" at the end. If you don’t know the marketing manager's name or email address, phone the company saying that you have a proposal to email to the marketing manager. If the telephone receptionist refuses to co-operate, ask politely but firmly to speak to the marketing manager directly – you have nothing to lose!
  • If you don’t receive a reply to your email within a week, follow-up by phone. Keep a progress record of all prospects to check your success rate. Over time you can adjust your 'sales pitch' according to what works best.
  • Don’t limit your prospects to companies that are already involved in your sport. Approach companies that aren’t involved, but whose products or services are bought by your sport’s participants or followers. If you’re looking to compete overseas, www.australianexporters.net has a State-by-State directory with more exporters than you can poke a stick at!
  • Finally, remember that sponsor-hunting is a sales job, and like every sales job the ‘Law of Averages’ (The more prospects you approach, the more likely you are to get a sale) applies. Put the same effort into every approach, because every sales representative knows that the least likely prospect can turn out to be the biggest buyer!


Contact Good Publicity for a chat about improving your publicity and corporate communications.





Watch your language!


In late-2012, Formula 1’s governing body, the FIA, reminded the best drivers in the world to avoid using ‘workshop language' during live TV interviews.


The same applies to anyone in the public eye, such as the media and politics, as well as the corporate world.


Although swearing and other of forms of anti-social behaviour are – regrettably – more widely accepted today than in the past, they’re still regarded as offensive by the general public.

The mainstream companies that bankroll major sports (and their high-profile heroes) take a dim view of ‘brand ambassadors’ who use foul language or put on temper tantrums in public. Corporate partnership contracts often include provision for termination in the event of such behaviour.

Receiving corporate sponsorship is just other form of employment - if you offend the boss, you risk being shown the door.


Contact Good Publicity for a chat about improving your publicity and corporate communications.





The potential perils of social media


If you use Facebook or Twitter, then doubtless you’ve read or seen posts or comments that are offensive at best, and possibly even legally actionable.


The individuals who post this material either don’t know or don’t care that their accounts may be accessible not just by their Twitter ‘Followers’ or Facebook ‘Friends’, but by millions of other people worldwide. For example, a Twitter account can be accessed by anyone with an Internet connection (in the free world, anyway!), and a ‘public’ Facebook account can be accessed by every other Facebook account holder.

On Facebook, when you ‘Like’ another post it’s displayed on your account and notified instantly to your ‘Friends’.

Consider this scenario: You’re competing for something important like a job, work promotion, sports sponsorship or club committee position. A rival who knows you’re in the running looks up your social media accounts, trawls through your posts until they find something offensive, and alerts the decision-maker. You can probably kiss that job goodbye.

The only responsible policy with Internet social media is to think of the possible consequences before you post anything that could hurt others or youself later. If there’s anything on your social media accounts that could reflect negatively on you, delete it immediately.


Contact Good Publicity for a chat about improving your publicity and corporate communications.