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  • “I was not prepared for this…” What NOT to say in an interview….


    CBS Evening News delivered a great example tonight of what not to do when an interview goes badly.

    Ashley Downing pulls the plug on an interview.  CBS NEWS

    Ashley Downing pulls the plug on an interview. CBS NEWS

    An investigative piece, correspondent Jim Axelrod reported about how some Americans have been sent costly medications they did not order in a scheme arranged by a telemarketing firms and compounding pharmacies.

    At around the 3:40 mark of the clip below — Axelrod interviews Ashley Downing and her husband, Chris, co-owners of a Dallas-based outfit which mixed up meds costing tens of thousands of dollars and sent to unwitting patients.

    Apparently Ashley was expecting something other than a hard-hitting interview. When the questions turned tough, she turned tail.

    “I think we should just go ahead and just…” said Ashley.

    “And just what?” Axelrod asked.

    “Not do this anymore. I was not prepared for this at all,” Ashley answered.

    “Let me ask you one more question, what is in those creams that is worth $18,000?”, the reporter pressed.

    “So we don’t determine the formulas, on that,” Ashley said. “You know, we’re done, I’m done on this.”

    There are a number of lessons from this. (Beyond the obvious — don’t rip off insurance companies and patients).

    Before you agree to sit down with a journalist you need to do you best to figure out the line of questioning.

    You need to check out the reporter’s past work — Axelrod would not be doing a puff piece on the state of the pharmacy industry for example.

    The interviewees should also prepare their messaging — practice answering tough questions and have an exit strategy if things turn ugly. That exit strategy is not to declear “We’re done. I’m done on this.”

    Going into an interview as unprepared as the Downings were — is simply bad medicine.

  • AROD Apology Tour — Take a Shot at Home?

    Alex Rodriguez has a lot of ‘splaining to do.  The New York Yankees slugger has reportedly been making the rounds to apologize for his past actions and lies regarding steroid use.



    The New York Daily News says that after Rodriguez paid visit to Major League Baseball headquarters, and the offices of the Yankees — the Bronx Bombers offered to let him use Yankee Stadium as a venue for an apology to the fans via the media.  Should he do it?

    Yankee Stadium may not be big enough to accommodate all the reporters AROD has lied to over the years — but its press room might be a good place to start.

    After serving a year’s suspension — Rodriguez is about to report to spring training to resume his career.  The PR theory behind a public mea culpa is too take some of the heat off of Yankee appearances in the Grapefruit League.

    While a well-practiced and heartfelt (if possible) apology in New York will not be sufficient to calm the circus-like atmosphere that inevitably will follow Rodriquez around for a while, it is probably a wise step to try.

    Done well, if (make that when) Rodriquez gets peppered with questions in Florida about his many past errors — he can say “I addressed all that at length in New York. I’d like to focus all my attention going forward to the upcoming season.”  He will still get hammered…but starting his public apology tour in the Bronx makes some sense.

    UPDATE: It has been confirmed that Alex was offered the use of Yankee Stadium – but after a couple days reflection — he has decided to skip the in person apology and toss out a handwritten page  and a half “To the fans”  which can be seen here.   As apologies go — that is pretty lame.  It will do nothing to minimize the media circus when he shows up at  spring training.  While it is unclear that anything said at a press conference might have started him on the road to redemption — it is certain that dashing off a quick note is not going to get the job done.




  • Ya Gotta Know When To Fold ‘Em – When NOT to Give An Interview


    At 15-Seconds we are big proponents of mixing it up with the media. Your product, program, principle or principal under fire? We almost always recommend that spokespeople take a shot at making bad stories a little less bad.


    Almost always. But there are occasions when you have a  really lousy hand to play. There may be good explanations that you are not allowed to give or no plausible explanation — in which case we suggest making a brief statement and then making an exit.




    The two top spokeswomen at the Department of State courageously — and foolishly in our view — granted interviews yesterday trying to explain a very ugly exit made when the U.S. Embassy in Yemen was closed earlier this week. State Department Officials rushed to the airport leaving cars (many with the keys in the ignition.) The vehicles are now in the hands of rebel forces. Despite considerable warning — no U.S. military aircraft were brought in to evacuate American personnel…so Embassy Marines were forced to leave their weapons behind after rendering them useless with sledgehammers.

    Senior spokesperson Jen Psaki gave a lengthy interview to Megyn Kelly of Fox News and tried to put lipstick on a pig suggesting that the exit was not a hasty one and saying “Just because everybody didn’t know what the plans were, it didn’t mean the plans weren’t there for weeks.”

    Psaki’s deputy Marie Harf endured a similarly tough interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer saying at one point that the U.S. government expects those who took the embassy’s cars to return them. (No doubt with a full tank of gas just like at the rental car company).

    Kelly and Blitzer took sledgehammers to the spokeswomen’s talking points…something that was entirely predictable. In this case — if the circumstances do not permit Foggy Bottom flacks to come armed with better arguments – they would have been better advised to decline invitations to appear on television and live to fight another day.


    (Note: we will post the Harf CNN video if/when it becomes available. Oddly, 24 hours after the interview CNN seems not to have posted the video.)