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The 15-Seconds Blog

  • Money, Money, Money

    When you are dealing with the media — nothing happens in a vacuum. Everything you do and say needs to be weighed against the environment in which you are operating.

    Given the current economic crisis — companies, government agencies and even individuals need to reevaluate how they operate — and how their actions will be perceived.

    Northern Trust Corporation is the latest example of an outfit that doesn’t get it. The banking firm reportedly got $1.6 Billion taxpayer dollars in the recent bailout. This past weekend they hosted an annual PGA golf tournament outside of Los Angeles.

    A golf tournament which raises money for charity – OK. But what about the events surrounding the sporting event? According to press accounts, Northern “hosted clients and employees at places like the Beverly Wilshire and Ritz Carlton hotels and gave away Tiffany souvenirs.” The company threw lavish parties with entertainment by Sheryl Crowe and the band Chicago.

    When called on the matter, a spokesman for Northern dismissed the expenditures as:

    “..part of a business decision regarding an annual event to show appreciation for clients.”

    Wrong answer. When your company has just gone to the American taxpayer with a tin cup for a bailout — you should not show off a tin ear when describing the care with which you handle your financial assets.


  • Do You Want to Be President?

    If you are a Senator or Governor from the party which does not control the White House — and if you haven’t been indicted recently — one thing that you can count on is being asked if you plan to run for President.

    Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal got the expected question while appearing on NBC’s Meet the Press today.

    Governors Tim Pawlenty (R, MN) and Mark Sanford (R, SC) got essentially the same question on Fox News Sunday this morning.

    Even California’s Arnold Swarzenegger was asked about his future on CNN’s “State of the Union” (although host John King pointed out that it would take a constitutional amendment to permit the foreign-born Governator to run.)

    Political protocol requires politicians to say things like “I’m only focused on my current job” and “My concern is the people of (fill in the blank).”

    The trick is to declare your dedication to your current job without flatly ruling out the possibility of seeking what you really want — the ultimate job promotion.

    Here is how Jindal handled the question with David Gregory on Meet The Press:

    Visit msnbc.com for Breaking News, World News, and News about the Economy

    Jindal made the safe play — but just once we’d like to see some politician say: “I love my job, but under the right circumstances, I wouldn’t mind moving up. Let me ask you David — would you rule out the possibility of someday anchoring the Nightly News?”


  • Batter Up

    At 1:30 PM EST today, Yankee slugger Alex Rodriguez is scheduled to step to the plate and field questions from the news media about his recent admission of using performance enhancing drugs from 2001 to 2003.

    Whether you are a baseball fan or not, it should be interesting to see how A-Rod handles the high, hard ones thrown at him by the less-than-retiring Yankee press corps.

    photo: NY Daily News

    The session promises to be full of lessons regarding the fielding of questions when you are in trouble.

    Keys to the Game:

    Here are some things to look for to see how well Alex is standing up to the competition:

    A. Sincerity – He has GOT to look sorry, regretful and open. Any sign of smugness, anger or self-pity and everything else he says will be dismissed.

    B. Step Up To the Plate An Accept Responsibility — In his earlier conversations with ESPN, A-Rod tried to blame the reporter who broke the story for unethical conduct. He has since apologized. He should not try to shift attention to anyone else. This is about him.

    C. Be Plausible – None of this “I can’t really remember what I took”

    D. No Mumbo Jumbo – In some of his previous answers Rodriguez got away with saying things like: “At the time…I wasn’t even being truthful with myself. How am I going to be truthful with Katie or CBS?” to try to excuse the fact that he flatly lied. A better answer would have been…”I was embarrassed and did not want to admit what I had done. So I lied.”

    E. No Hiding Behind The Crowd — Talking to ESPN, A-Rod said that at the time of his offense “There were a lot of people doing a lot of things. There was a lot of gray area, too.”

    News flash for Alex — What you did was wrong. If others were doing it — it doesn’t make it right for you. Have you considered that some might have been juicing to try to keep up with you?

    It will be interesting to see how A-Rod stands up to the test. He cannot make this a good story for himself. But he CAN start down the road to putting the matter behind him — or he can boot it and ensure that story continues to dog him for the remainder of his career. We’ll be watching.