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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Nice Guys Finish Last

    Outgoing North Carolina Governor Mike Easley has an odd view of media relations. The Raleigh News & Observer reports that Easley complained recently about how the local papers have treated him saying:

    “My job is to be nice to other people, and their job is to be nice to me. Just because they’re not doing theirs doesn’t mean I shouldn’t do mine,”

    Apparently one of the Governor’s objections is a newspaper series about how his administration has handled prison probation. The allegation is that perhaps the Gov has been too nice. According the the News & Observer:

    The probation series highlighted 580 cases of probationers who killed since 2000, a system that has lost track of thousands of convicted criminals and leaders who missed chances to improve technology to help officers keep up with their charges.

    According to the article, the Governor blames his problems on media hell-bent on “gotcha” stories but that:

    Easley has declined repeated requests to talk to the reporters who worked on the probation series and declined a request Monday for an interview about his recent comments.

    Hard to see how you can complain about the media not being “nice” to you and yet refuse to talk to them — leaving them to their own devices. Do the media look for “gotcha” stories? You bet. And not talking to them will help how? Seems like a odd press strategy to us, but that’s the way Easley does it.


  • Confidence Game

    When big businesses decide they need new leadership at the top, they have to explain the rationale to the media. One goal is to give their customers confidence that the change is well considered and needed.

    The owner of the New York Jets faced such a challenge today — and fumbled.

    After a disappointing 9-7 season in which the Jets failed to make the NFL playoffs, the team’s ownership decided to fire coach Eric Mangini

    In trying to explain the decision to the media today, Owner Woody Johnson said:

    “There’s nothing specific. It’s just a call that we made and hopefully it is correct.”

    Gosh, now that’s convincing. Hopefully Woody? Couldn’t you at least pretend that you are confident in what you have done?

    To make matters worse, Johnson told reporters that the Jets plan to get right on the job of finding a replacement for Mangini.

    “We will very quickly start… looking under every rock for talent,” he said.

    Hmm. Another confidence builder.

    Football is not just a game. It is a multi-billion dollar business. So when top executives set out to talk to the media, they ought to think through the meaning of their words first — rather than scrambling around and throwing out phrases like a third-string quarterback tossing up “Hail Marys” when it is 4th and 20.



  • What? “You Know” Can Hurt You

    There are few things more annoying than hearing someone interviewed in the media who repeats a verbal tic over and over again.

    Who could forget (try as we might) John McCain’s incessant use of “My friends” during the recent presidential campaign?

    But McCain can’t hold a candle to Senator-wannabee Caroline Kennedy. The New York Daily News has an article today in which she explains why she wants to replace Hillary Clinton. The Post (unhelpfully for Ms Kennedy) attached an audio recording of Caroline making her case.

    By our count she managed to squeeze in the phrase “you know” 43 times in the 4 minute and 58 second recording. That works out to one “you know” every 9.25 seconds — undoubtedly a world record. If you want to subject yourself to it — listen to the clip below.

    Generally, people use verbal tics (like “you know,” “like,” “Um,” and “Ah” to fill up air time while they think about what they want to say next. In almost every case — simply saying nothing would be much better. These tics can be a hard habit to break — especially if the person employing them doesn’t have someone on their staff whose job it is to hound them until they stop.

    We hope that Ms Kennedy is practicing her answers before she meets with the press. But in addition to handlers who advise her on substance — she should be forced to practice all of her answers until she can make it through a five minute session without saying stuff like, um, you know what I mean? You know?

    UPDATE: The New York Post now says that they did a 40-minute interview with Ms Kennedy on Saturday during which she said “you know” more than 200 times. If she could have skipped the phrase she would have been out of there in 15 minutes.