When a reporter publicly confronts you with an unexpected question, a lot may be riding on your response. Not only will your words be captured in print or on film, but within minutes they might be circling the globe on social media.
Here’s a good example of preparation under pressure. Marshall Guest is a spokesman for Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, who had introduced legislation strengthening Georgia’ ethic laws relating to lobbyists. The day before it passed the House by a unanimous vote, Jack Abramoff was in town (at the press club, of all places). Abramoff, one of Washington’s most powerful lobbyists until he was convicted in 2006 for corruption, criticized the bill, saying it was full of loopholes and called Georgia a “lobbyist Disneyland.”
“I would first ask if he had read the bill. And then I would politely remind him that he couldn’t even register as a lobbyist here in Georgia because he is a convicted felon. The Speaker has been working with Georgians who have good ideas on this issue as opposed to Washington insiders who are trying to profit from their wrongdoing by selling their book.”
Nicely phrased, Mr. Guest. He effectively raised the credibility of Rep. Ralston (“has been working with Georgians …”) while diminishing the credibility of Abramoff, (“convicted felon … trying to profit from their wrongdoing …”) and his book, “Capitol Punishment.” Guest’s key message is clear: The legislation is solid, and his boss is doing the right thing.
No denying that Marshall Guest is a professional, and does his job well. But in today’s world of instant communication, any CEO can be put in the same situation. How do you increase the odds of success under pressure? Be prepared. Take the time to strategically focus your key messages, and infuse them in every public statement you make.
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