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  • Black Belt Media Jousting

    It’s rarely wise to voluntarily engage in a media interview if the interviewer holds you in contempt. That rule does not apply if you are trying to sell a book.

    Conrad Black, former newspaper baron and convicted felon gave two remarkable interviews recently on British television.  Black (AKA Lord Black of Crossharbour) got out of jail in  the U.S. in May after serving 3.5 years of a 6.5 year sentence for fraud and obstruction of justice. To say he still protests his innocence would be the understatement of the year.

    He recently elected to undergo cross examination by two of Britain’s more aggressive prosecutorial journalists and he demolished both. If you are facing a tough interview, the clips below are well worth study.  That is not to say that Black did everything right.  He comes across as insufferably arrogant — perhaps the only charge to which he would plead guilty.  In the Sky News video he displays terrible posture and forgets (or so claims) to know the name of Adam Boulton the person interviewing him.  But he gives no quarter in batting back charges and does not let Boulton bully him in any way.  Quite the contrary.  Black freely admits he is appearing to help promote his book and asks his interviewer to hold it up for viewers –  Boulton complies.

    The interview with BBC interrogator Jeremy Paxman is even more entertaining.  Black’s posture is better and his protestations are even more intense.    Many of the statistics he rattles off about the U.S. justice system are rolled out in exactly the same fashion in both interviews – demonstrating that he has practiced his soundbites and prepared his talking points well in advance – just as we teach our clients.  Perhaps prison time gives you plenty of opportunity to do that…but in any case, Black gives a bravura performance.

    We take no position here on Baron Black’s guilt or innocence.  But if you truly believe you are innocent, you can do no better than to defend yourself with vigor.


  • Citi Citi Bye Bye

    If you are a big businessman and suffer a setback — you can explain it yourself or let others define you.

    Wall Street and the city that never sleeps woke up this morning to the surprising news that Vikram Pandit, the  CEO of Citigroup, was stepping down effective immediately.

    It wasn’t long before  conflicting reports starting to come out to explain why Pandit was leaving the Citi. 

    TV Newser reports that CNBC’s Jim Cramer said very high level sources told him Pandit was “forced out last night.  Board didn’t want him anymore.”

    But a couple hours later Maria Bartiromo on the same network said she had just had a conversation with Pandit himself who claimed his departure was “his decision.”  The “Money Honey” went on to report that Pandit “…said it was time after five years of accomplishing what he set out to do. He said he’s been thing about this for some time,” adding that “the board was always ready for this eventuality.”

    If that is the best Pandit can come up with – he should be fired. When you fully accomplish all your goals at a corporation like Citigroup you step down with fanfare, banquets, and awards.  You don’t clean out your desk overnight saying the board was always prepared for such a move.

    No doubt Citi insiders will start leaking more details of why the board was bearish on Pandit.  He would have been better advised to start now with an explanation that starts to tell his side of the story — rather than waiting for it to dribble out. His claim that he walked the plank at his own initiative will become increasingly unbelievable.

  • Debate: Keeping Candy From Babies

    Presidential candidates: want us to think you can stand up to Ahmadinejad?
    Start by showing you aren’t afraid of Candy Crowley.

    Time Magazine reports that both the Obama and Romney campaigns have complained to the Commission on Presidential Debates that Candy Crowley of CNN, the moderator for tomorrow night’s debate, has the temerity to think that she might ask some questions.

    The debate, which will be held at Hoftra University, is designed to be town hall style — with members of the public asking questions.  Crowley apparently caused the campaigns to gasp when she said on the air last week:  “Once the table is kind of set by the town-hall questioner, there is time for me to say, “Hey, wait a second, what about X, Y, and Z?”

    No fair! the campaigns cried.  Apparently they had previously negotiated an agreement with the Debate Commission in which the moderator’s role would not get past A, B, & C…let alone X, Y, and Z.  That being the case — they should have selected Ryan Secrest to be the moderator rather than booking a skilled journalist like Crowley.

    To us, there seem to be a couple important lessons here.  Number one — neither campaign is very good at negotiating.  They apparently made this agreement with the Commission without bothering to ensure that the moderator also agreed and would comply.

    But more importantly, they seem to prefer one-off questions from the public rather than risk a follow up from a journalist.  Each side apparently believes that they can handle the batting practice softballs thrown at them from citizen questioners and are confident that no member of the public is likely to waste their one shot at stardom by ditching their own question to follow up on the last person’s.

    We understand why the campaigns might wish to be cautious.  While you may not be able to win the presidency in a debate — you can probably lose it.  Each campaign is devoting several days specifically to preparing their candidate. A good campaign — and a good candidate — should be able to think far enough ahead to not only predict likely questions and prepare solid answers but also to anticipate a second tier of follow-on responses in case Candy calls BS on the first answer.

    Come on Team Obama and Team Romney.  Show some guts and demonstrate you can’t be spooked by Candy.