Thursday, August 6, 2009

Is Your CEO Over Soundbited?

Jon Stewart is having a field day with Fox News demonstrating how it grabs onto an issue like a pit bull (with or without lipstick) and soundbites it to death. The idea of course is to influence public opinion by repeating the same thing over and over again. And on a mass scale it can work although in the newsroom well it's just plain scary.

We all know that the more you say something the more credible it is right?

No one would ever accuse Fox News of trying to bias viewers, well maybe not this week.

In the August 3rd episode of the Daily Show Comedy Central's Stewart demonstrates how you influence public opinion (or at the very least the Fox News audience) by repetition, attributing it to the man on the street, and then elevating it to a new level. It tried to put in the link but it doesn't work so just Google it.

First the talking head Ken Doll journalist Steve introduces a talking point on a Fox show that the Cash for Clunkers Program - which is working by the way - is running out of money and an abject failure for the administration. Then they show video clips on a later broadcast of two "citizens" in two different cities making the exact same point in town hall meetings.

But their point goes one better because if Obama can't run Cash for Clunkers how can he run healthcare?

Next the same "newsperson" reports it again as news. Finally we see the litany of Fox hosts - we all know who they are - who pick up the same talking points and run with them.

What's disturbing and yet very funny is the way Stewart lays it out for us without drawing any value judgetments. Some of the talking points include:

Bad program
Too much business
Running out of Money
Too effective
If can't run Cash for Clunkers How Can they Run Healthcare?

So my point is not just another liberal rant - it's really for marketers and media people. I have been watching a lot of morning and evening and even daytime news shows lately. It's part of my job folks. And what I'm seeing is that everyone is talking pointed to death.

They repeat the same things over and over again. They know exactly how to segway into the next talking point. The hosts let them get away with it. And it doesn't look real. They're not really credible because they are way too rehearsed.

What is the line you should walk between preparing your CEO for an interview and making him or her sound not only like they've practiced too death but also that they can't say anything but what's on the TV monitor in front of them?

Well here's my first thought - if he or she doesn't sound genuine to you - and be honest with yourselves not pandering - you need to shake it up a bit.

Throw in an anecdote that makes him seem human. A few uhs are not the end of the world.

More on this in the next post.

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