Matt Harvey – First the injury and now this.
Don’t feel bad for me. I’m a New York Mets fan. I’m accustomed to the September collapses, a dysfunctional/non-functional front office along with underperforming and overpaid superstar players. That’s not to mention the more decorated big brother from the Bronx.
This season was primed to be different; a year that the train would stay on the tracks and begin moving from National League cellar dweller towards a .500 season. Engineering that train – Matt Harvey, a young ace hurler with an arm that whipped like few have since Henry Rowengartner (Rookie of the Year). Except Harvey, a 97-plus MPH fast-baller, had a wicked slider and humbling changeup, too.
Then on August 26, a colossal derailment: a partially torn ulnar collateral ligament in Harvey’s moneymaking and hope-springs-eternal right elbow. Done for the remainder of 2013 and possibly all of 2014. Fast forward to September 18, when asked on the Dan Patrick Show about his decision to rehab the elbow instead of undergo surgery, and whether or not surgery would be scary, Harvey gave an answer that captivated baseball fans across the country: “We can set up another call if you’d like to talk about that subject, but today we’re honoring and supporting Qualcomm.”
Mr. Harvey forgot one of the cardinal rules of being a spokesperson: manage your personal brand with the same care you would, in this case, your pitching arm. Each can make or break a career and there’s no on/off switch either.
Yes, he was paid by his corporate sponsor, a telecom company, to plug all the wonderful things they do for the Majors, but there’s an art to even that simple charge. He is one of baseball’s young, most personable and high-profile phenoms. Now, in the time of one quick statement, he has taken more than a baby step to being seen as an immature, naïve corporate mouthpiece. It was clear he’d never been prepped on how to seamlessly promote an endorsed company/product – or perhaps he just got some bad advice (benefit of the doubt).
Harvey’s gaffe got me thinking about the PR industry. While the way we go about daily business is rapidly changing, there is one constant: our clients want to be a positive voice in the news. Whether it’s on national TV, a byline in a trade magazine or in a blog post, executives want to tell their companies’ stories and set themselves apart from the competition. Often times that means opining on hot topics and trends more so than touting products or services. This establishes the executive’s credibility as a thought leader: someone reliable, available and in the know.
Bloggers, reporters and producers judge our clients in 5-10 minute snippets. Unfair for sure, but a harsh reality. Our clients’ personal brands and how they carry themselves in those critical moments is a direct reflection on their entire company. What can we do to ensure that our clients don’t pull a Harvey during an interview?
- Read the scouting report – Every reporter, blogger or anchor has his/her own unique style and perspective. Conduct some background research and see what stories/topics they’ve recently covered.
- Warm up –Try to obtain interview questions ahead of time and rehearse them with your client. If you can’t get your hands on questions, anticipate what might be asked. Discuss ways to pivot out of difficult questions and bring the conversation back to a comfort zone.
- Don’t tip your pitches – Make sure your client knows not to disclose any private information that the company wouldn’t want getting out.
- Give a pep talk – Instill confidence in your client and remind them that they’re the expert.
- Ice down – Call your client post-interview and break down every facet of the conversation. Discuss the positives, negatives and how to improve going forward.
It’s simple: approach a media conversation as seriously as you might a new business meeting, or in Harvey’s case, a game day start.
And in true Mets fashion, we now have another example of what not to do.
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LinkedIn: Gregory Hassel