Tip of the Week 1

Lessons from Michael Jackson

Michael Jackson’s catastrophic attempt at an image makeover on ABC provides a sobering lesson in media relations that every publicity seeker should take to heart.

In his insightful critique of Martin Bashir’s interview, LA Weekly columnist John Powers observed:

“Anyone who’s ever conducted an interview knows that the trick is to appear to be on the side of your subject — that’s how you get folks to talk…We see Bashir asking Jackson easy questions onscreen, then nailing him with the filmmaker’s ultimate weapon — the toxic voice-over.”

Lesson #1: The journalist is never your buddy. Remember, he’s the one controlling the editing machine.

Lesson #2: Don’t say anything you don’t want to see in print or on TV. There’s no such thing as “off the record.”

Lesson #3: Understand that no matter how famous you once were, a single interview will never transform your image. It takes time, long-range planning and follow-through to accomplish.

Lesson #4: If your PR team only tells you how great you are, fire them—they’re worthless. PR professionals should tell you how you really come across, how you actually appear to your audience or the market place. Media training provides the tools to help you improve.

Michael Jackson’s interview was a PR disaster. The premise was ill-conceived, the expectation unrealistic, and the PR planning—apparently non-existent.