Image is Everything
Image is everything. It’s not what you say, but you do that is remembered by others, yet surprisingly few people seem to remember this, especially when they are in the middle of a crisis situation.
Studies by sociologists show body language makes up 55 percent of our communications. Think about it; what you do means more than what you say. Yet despite this fairly obvious conclusion, so many people in the middle of a crisis situation don’t take the time to think of what their actions will say in the public domain.
The former Governor of Illinois, Rod Blagojevich, seemed to forget this during his national media tour shortly before his impeachment from office. I’m not sure who coached this politician but his entire public relations team should be sent to the unemployment line to find a new career. Everyone from Late Show comedian David Letterman to the women on The View took cheap shots at Blagojevich over his alleged attempt to sell the US Senate seat vacated by President Barack Obama. It only degraded his public worth, especially since Blagojevich refused to answer any difficult questions of substance.
But it got worse. I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw Blagojevich, taking a jog through the snow in front of reporters and photographers. Here he was in the middle of a major political scandal, accused of trying to sell a US Senate seat, refusing to answer reporters’ questions and television photographers capture him running from the camera. Didn’t he understand the image this would project on television? The former governor stood accused of running from the hard questions, and now journalists got the pictures to support it.
Television needs a visual to support the story, otherwise it’s just radio.
TV reporters also need new video to advance the day’s report. For that slow news cycle day, Blagojevich gave reporters their new visual to advance their story. In addition, the new video of the former governor running projected the image of him not working. He should be working in the middle of the day like most Americans, not exercising.
Just in case you didn’t know, you never want to run when a TV reporter or camera crew surprises you with an ambush. Any person running will always look guilty. If you don’t believe me on this, just ask yourself what you thought when you saw OJ Simpson driving his white Ford Bronco, fleeing from police. Only those who are guilty run. Maybe it’s a cliché, but it certainly became a popular one for a reason.
If you are ever confronted or surprised with an unannounced interview with the media, face the cameras. Don’t run. Running only makes for great television, like it did with Blagojevich. If you leave work tonight and there is a reporter outside of your business, asking you questions about a customer’s accusations, take a minute to address the reporter. This doesn’t mean you have to answer the reporter’s questions. It means you have to address him, make contact with the camera.
In this situation, tell the reporter that you will answer his questions in the proper way. Tell the reporter that this ambush is not responsible journalism and that he should schedule an interview with you, rather than try to catch you by surprise. Tell the reporter that you are on your way to a meeting or family function, but you will answer his questions when he calls you at work.
Of course, any reporter that surprises you with an unannounced interview is most likely pursuing stories for shock value. That means, he will want you to run or push his camera or even put your hand up to block the camera lense. Resist the urge. Remain respectful and stick to your message: You will gain more by projecting the image of dignity, rather than fear.
Even if you don’t want to answer the questions, at least the camera will show you answering the questions. And we all know the camera never lies.. yeah, right..
Mark Macias is a former Executive Producer with WNBC and Senior Producer with WCBS. He’s also the author of the communications book, Beat the Press: Your Guide to Managing the Media. Macias now consults small and large businesses on how to get publicity. You can read more on his firm at MaciasPR.