#Media Monday – Ralph Zubiate
November 7, 2016
Strategic Shock
November 9, 2016
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ABC’s new series Designated Survivor is a bit too fatalistic for me.  But, I do enjoy the drama and the story lines.

It’s about a lower-level cabinet member who is suddenly appointed President of the United States after a catastrophic attack on the U.S. Capitol during the State of the Union Address.

A few episodes in, there was quite a teaching moment for those who deal with the media.

Seth Wright, the president’s top speech writer, was on-hand to watch Carter Dunne, “third deputy assistant to the press secretary to the president,” completely botch the Q & A of a news conference with the capitol press corps.  He was frazzled, appeared unprepared and meekly fled the podium.

Wright then stepped in to calmly salvage the news conference and save the day with a calming approach to answering the media’s questions.

Wright’s and Dunne’s post-news conference conversation was a Reader’s Digest version of a media training session:

Wright:  “It’s about taking control.”

Dunne: “They’re like a pack of wild dogs.  …if they sense fear in you they attack.”

Wright:  “You can’t let them intimidate you.  There are three surefire ways for a press secretary to die a quiet death.

  1. Get hostile.
  2.  Lie.
  3. Guess.

If there’s a question you don’t know the answer to, you deflect:

  • We’re looking into it.
  • We don’t have a statement at this time.
  • We’ll get back to you.”

(I have heard versions of the same coaching at some of HMA’s media training sessions.)

And then the light-bulb went on for Dunne, who said in a mock answer, “The president shares your concerns and is working diligently to find a solution.”

Shortly thereafter, Wright was named the president’s press secretary and Dunne wasn’t heard from again.  Maybe he’ll resurface now that he understands how to deal with the media.

Scott Hanson
Scott Hanson
President Scott is president of HMA Public Relations and a founding member of the Public Relations Global Network. He’s a Phoenix native, husband, father of two and a fan of all sports and a participant in some. Check out Scott's full bio

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