Image Watch

November19,2010

Did Kanye West’s Media Trainer Quit? Dealing with the Most Difficult Type of Client to Coach

I have to be honest, I find Kanye West to be HIGHLY annoying and I haven’t kept up with his latest drama. I heard rumblings that he had some sort of incident with the “Today” show, but never learned any specifics. When I ran across articles saying that his media trainer had quit after advising him not to do the interview, I started thinking about the most difficult clients a media trainer has to work with.

When it comes to media training there are essentially two types of clients–those that believe want media training and those that feel obligated to get it. Clients who feel obligated to be media trained are the hardest to work with because their confidence level is typically higher than it should be or worse, they believe that nothing they do will revamp their image, or even worse they believe that the media is out to get them and resent having to deal with it at all.

A third type of client is one that has been forced into it by necessity–either because their organization requires it or they’ve started a business and they have to be out in the forefront. Those clients are still way easier to deal with than obligated ones.

When dealing with those who are only signing up for media training because they feel obligated to do so, I have a few quick tips.

Dealing With Their Ego

Typically clients with huge egos have had good experiences with the media and have been lulled into a false sense of security. This may be because they’re good with the media in terms of poise and articulation; however, they may not actually be accomplishing anything. I find it helpful to practice messaging with my most egotistical students and I always record them. When I play the recording back I drill them on what they think they listener got out of the interview. Often they are surprised to find out that although they didn’t bungle the segment, they didn’t do anything spectacular either. Bubble busted. Too many people focus on what didn’t go wrong in an interview rather than what didn’t go right. Sure you may have talked about your new product, but did you mention the web site? The company name? Why your product is better than competitors?

Encouraging Quitters

This type of client is the King of Woe is Me. They think that any appeal to the media is pointless and that they’re stuck with their bad image (or no image at all) forever. They’re afraid to try and fail, and they believe media training is a waste of time. This is where case studies are helpful. Find public figures and incidents similar to what your client is struggling with and show them how the perception of that person, idea, company has changed with good coaching. Many times these clients also lack confidence–save the hardcore practice interviews for other clients. You don’t want to scare this kind of person, the fear of God is already in them.

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October18,2010

Will The Media Set Up Marc Lamont Hill Law Suit as Hero Vs. Hip Hopper?

Back in June I blogged about Columbia professor Marc Lamont Hill’s allegation that he was harassed by the Philadelphia police. It was reported last week that Hill now plans to sue the Philadelphia police department for the incident he describes in the tweets that appear at the end of the post.

The reporting on this story seems to be headed toward a Hero vs. Hip Hopper storyline. Most outlets have emphasized Officer Decoatesworth’s past heroic actions and subsequent invitation to a joint session of Congress in which he sat beside the first lady.

Politico Photo of DeCoatesworth

The above picture was run by Politico.com. In their article they elected NOT to run a picture of Hill at all; rather to refer to him as “another black Ivy League Professor” having a run in with the law, an allusion to Professor Henry Louis Gates’  run-in with a police officer in Cambridge which ended in the infamous “beer-summit” at the White House.

Sidebar: The paragraph comparing Hill and Gates is misleading. Gates didn’t file a Federal civil rights lawsuit nor was his incident with the Philadelphia police as the paragraph implies.

Nevertheless, the decision to run a photo of DeCoatesworth without running a photo of Hill is interesting as was the decision to emphasize DeCoatesworth’s achievements without mentioning who Hill is beyond a black professor.

The Philadelphia Inquirer article on the Hill lawsuit was better but one thing bothered me–they repeatedly referred to the incident as a traffic stop. I suppose this is factually correct as Hill was in his car and driving; however, Hill alleges that the police told him to move his car as he was dropping a friend off, and then after he dropped off his friend, the same police officer’s later stopped him and did not explain why.

That sounds like more than a “traffic stop” and the use of that language sort of downplays the whole thing. Maybe I’m being nitpicky?

I perused a few more sites and most seemed to either follow the Politico route of treating this like a non-story with more details about the cop than the professor–and others spending the bulk of the text explaining the incident. Almost all the sites referred to Hill and hip hop–I suppose that’s fair since lots of his work is centered around the musical genre.

At any rate, if Hill wants to win the media war in this one he has an uphill battle. I think this casting of him as an Ivy League hip hopper who is accusing an 24 year old hometown hero of acting completely and utterly reckless will probably continue–that is until more details are released and a new storyline emerges.

Obviously, journalists have to tell both sides of a story, and there’s no getting around the fact that DeCoatesworth is a hero. However, heroes can later make mistakes–something the general may not immediately recognize given the storyline.

As for Hill, I did note that his initial tweets didn’t sound as though the encounter was violent, so I was surprised to hear those details. That’s the downside of tweeting about something like this, you have to ask why he didn’t relay the juiciest part of the story the first time.

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October5,2010

Jon Stewart’s Mocking of Rick Sanchez’s Firing Isn’t Funny–In fact, It Kinda Pisses Me Off

It’s true that I am a perennial party pooper, a consistent contrarian, a rainer on parades, if you will. There’s no reason for me to stop now.

Let me start by saying I’ve never seen Rick Sanchez’s show. In fact, I’d never heard of him until he was fired. I don’t watch much TV and I sure don’t watch cable news. What I’ve heard thus far is that Sanchez is a moron and his show is dumb.

But clearly he wasn’t fired for that reason. He was fired because…because…umm…well…what happened was he…

Right.

I read Sanchez statements and I interpreted them thusly: I am a Latino man and I believe I have suffered institutionalized racism at the hands of white liberals–many of whom are Jewish people. Jewish people are powerful within the entertainment industry and Jon Stewart is one of those people. I think that Stewart and some other people of his ilk look down on me.

I have to assume that CNN and others assumed Sanchez said something he didn’t. I could guess what that something was (insert anti-semetic implications here) but what does it matter? The fact is Sanchez didn’t say anything wrong and his firing sends a confusing message.

Not only can you be fired and ridiculed for what you say, you can be fired and ridiculed for what we think you might have possibly been alluding to vaguely in your comments. For the record, THAT’S BULLSHIT.

Jon Stewart’s childish mocking of someone who was fired for something they didn’t say rubs me the wrong way. Minorities struggle with institutionalized racism on a daily basis, and Sanchez’s comments, however impolitic or unwelcome, were a valid representation of what many routinely face. Hearing Stewart and many in the liberal contingent act as though Sanchez committed a grave offense while ignoring the fact that he clearly relayed a painful past and present experience shows two things: 1.  How off limits discussions about racial bias are–even from people who have their own platform from which to speak and 2. How completely out of touch some white people are with how minorities navigate this world.

Interesting that even after achieving the one thing that most journalists want—his own television show–Sanchez was still filled with enough resentment (certainly driven in part by Stewart’s mocking) that he mentioned racial inequity on air in a personal sense, something that almost never happens.  And now we know why it almost never happens.

Stewart gets to mock Sanchez’s “meltdown” while ignoring the crux of his point. Privilege anyone? This is the very thing that Sanchez was talking about. It’s difficult to know that no matter how much you accomplish there are certain people who will never respect you simply because you’re (insert disadvantage here), and then, after disrespecting you they can take you down, and then kick you while you’re down. Stewart may not see himself as one of those people, he may not think that his disdain for Sanchez is racially motivated–and perhaps it’s not. But that doesn’t make Sanchez’s experiences any less valid or Stewart’s na na na boo boo’ing any more appealing.

I’ve said it many times before, but Christopher Hitchens is one of my favorite thinkers and has heavily influenced my own work. I enjoyed reading his thoughts on the Sanchez situation in Slate magazine and agreed with his characterization of Sanchez’s comments as “uncontroversial.” Hitchens also suggests that Stewart lead a charge for Sanchez to be reinstated, and I think that would be the mature thing to do.

But Stewart doesn’t seem to be interested in approaching this subject maturely. And yeah, it kinda pisses me off.

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October4,2010

Why Some Black Women Aren’t Laughing at Saturday Night Live

When I found out that Saturday Night Live had added new cast members this season, I hoped a black woman would be among the new crop. I was disappointed to find out that, although one black man was added to the cast, not one black woman was chosen. In fact, over the show’s 35 year history, only 3 black women have been a part of the cast.

Unfortunately, rather than completely avoid sketches that parody black women, Keenan Thompson dresses in drag to play everyone from Oprah to Whoopi Goldberg. I’m surprised he hasn’t tried his hand at Beyonce yet–although I probably shouldn’t speak too soon.

Adding a black woman to the cast should be a no-brainer given how pervasive black women are in pop culture. Comedienne and Oscar winner Mo’nique and popular former radio personality Wendy Williams both have their own talk shows. Oprah is the powerhouse she’s always been. Then there’s First Lady Michelle Obama and pop singers like Rihanna and American Idol winner Fantasia and, of course, Beyonce. All of these women are ripe for comedic material.  I can’t figure out why SNL hasn’t capitalized on this fact given their decreased ratings and clear need to broaden their audience.

But even when not parodying real people SNL would benefit from having a black woman on air. So would the wildly popular ”The Daily Show,” which has, over the years, featured several black men.

A couple months back, there was much debate about whether or not sexism is rampant on the set of the “The Daily Show.” The women who work for the show wrote a letter defending their bosses. Above the letter was a photo of the “The Daily Show” women. Out of 31 women 2 appeared to be black. I don’t know what their roles are on the set or if there are additional black women who weren’t pictured, but I do know “The Daily Show” does not feature a black woman on air.

Too bad these aren’t the only examples of black women being virtually frozen out of mainstream comedy.

Thompson is only one of a slew of black male performers such as Tyler Perry, Martin Lawrence, and Jamie Foxx, who have, in part, built careers dressing as black women for laughs. Lawerence’s Big Mama’s House and all of Tyler Perry’s films that feature the gun-toting ”matriarch” Madea have been successful with crossover audiences. It appears that black women are funny provided they’re not actually women. Perhaps the best way for a black woman to build a career in comedy is to dress up as a man dressing up as a woman.

I’m well aware that the male-dominated world of comedy isn’t kind to women overall. Still, America has become too comfortable with the gender equivalent to performing in black face. For the most popular sketch comedy show on television to favor having a man dress in drag every episode rather than hire a black woman simply isn’t funny.

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September25,2010

Bishop Eddie Long: Sometimes a Headline and a Photo Make The Story

Pastor Long Preaching pre-sex scandal

The New York Times ran the photo to the left with this headline:

“Sex Scandal Threatens Georgia Pastor’s Empire”

That sentence is why I love the old gray haired lady. What a powerful 6 words. And the photo is a great complement.

Anyone care to discuss what makes this photo and headline so striking?

*For the complete Times story, click on the photo.

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September23,2010

PR Watch: Bad Time for No Wedding No Womb

For those who don’t know, No Wedding No Womb is a movement started by Christelyn D. Karazin and Lorraine Spencer to encourage responsible relationships and parenting (broadly speaking). Karazin is now married but spent some time as a single mother and has stated that she wishes she’d made some different choices in the past, especially as it pertains to having a child out of wedlock. You can find more information here, but the gist of it is both women and men need to make smart decisions and try very hard not to produce children outside of marriage.

As far as I can see, there’s nothing wrong with that message—there’s also nothing groundbreaking about it either. Many bloggers, personalities, and media outlets signed on to be a part of No Wedding No Womb which officially launched on September 22.

I’m used to choruses of “Amens” any time black people are taken to task whether fairly or not. But this time, things weren’t quite so simple. No Wedding No Womb seems to be getting just as much, if not more, blow back as it is getting support.

There are a couple of reasons why I think the movement hasn’t been well received across the board.

Much of the success of any movement is largely predicated on timing. We are coming off of a year when black women have had it very hard in the media. From stories about how they will never be married to stories about how they will never have any money—there’s been one piece of bad news after another.

By and large, black women are shouldering the blame alone and this movement feels like piling on. Though No Wedding No Womb explicitly states they are advocating responsibility by both men and women alike, male reproductive organs aren’t mentioned in the title.

In the midst of a time when black women are achieving more than ever before, having less children than ever before, and feeling more divided from black men than ever, No Wedding, No Womb as a concept just seems tone deaf.

It’s also a bit Reaganesque in that it takes a snapshot of a certain group of people and presents it as the norm in order to achieve a desired goal with no regard for the image of the larger group. In Reagan’s case, his motives were malicious. By singling out poor black women as a drain on society, he created a lasting image of black women in general being deficient. That being said, it’s no wonder that Conservative web sites like The Daily Caller dialed in their agenda-laden support.

I don’t think that No Wedding No Womb is malicious, but I do think its needlessly damaging. For many, No Wedding No Womb immediately conjures up images of the myth of the welfare queen and other unfair stereotypes bandied about regarding single mothers. The underlying assumption is that there is an epidemic of black women who don’t understand that marriage is ideal. There’s no evidence beyond confusing and easily manipulated statistics that hint at that being a fact. It’s hard to get behind something that drums up such bad feelings, no matter how noble the cause, when there are only flimsy statistics to back it up.

When it comes to the title, using the term No Wedding No Womb, while catchy and direct, completely sacrifices nuance. You have to go to the web site in order to find out that their goals are not absolute e.g. they aren’t advocating for everyone get married even if you hate the person you’re with. I can assume that the title was conceived to get a reaction and draw interest. Unfortunately, sometimes you get a reaction and no real interest. And the reaction from many single mothers was an instinctual urge to defend their own personal decisions, not to go to the web site and find out more.

The creators of No Wedding No Womb have themselves to blame for their awful presentation. However, that doesn’t excuse entire written blog posts and twitter timelines that skew the intention of this initiative. In fact, I even had to stop myself from discussing it because I felt I was uninformed.

For those who are interested in a pretty substantive discussion on this subject and why the stats are so misleading, I recommend you read this post and this post over at The Atlantic. FYI: Census reports should be out fairly soon, and the numbers are likely to take this conversation in a different direction.



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September22,2010

Eagles’ Decision to Start Vick Shows How Quickly Public Opinion Can Change

The Eagles gave Michael Vick a chance at a fresh start in the NFL after he was released from prison over a year ago. They did so to a chorus of boos and judgement by many in the media and the public. Still, Vick was given a chance to play behind McNabb and filled in for McNabb a few times with varying degrees of success.

As a long time Eagles fan I was angry, sad, and shocked when Donovan McNabb was traded to the Redskins and original backup QB Kevin Kolb was given a contract extension, a franchise tag and, obviously the starting QB role. What the Eagles were calling the Kolb Era, I referred to as the Kolb Error. It wasn’t that I wanted Vick to start, I wanted Reid to go and McNabb to stay.

My amateur sports analysis is that the Eagles may not have signed Kevin Kolb to a 12 million + extension if they thought there was a chance in hell it was safe to make Michael Vick a starter–for skill reasons but mostly for public relations reasons. The tone of public opinion on Vick has been mostly negative, in particular among people who aren’t big fans of football, a demographic the NFL is trying hard not to alienate for the sake of advertisers. I have to believe that this fear of public opinion is why a team like the Raiders would sign former Redskins QB Jason Campbell (whom they have now benched) and not Michael Vick.

What a difference 18 months makes. Who would have known that it would only take a game and half of mediocre (not ‘horrible’) play on Kolb’s part to turn fans and sports enthusiasts  into a mob that all but ridiculed the Eagles decision to make Kolb number 1. And more than that, who would have thought the Eagles would be facing a PR nightmare for NOT starting him?

Public opinion is a fickle beast, and this is a situation that could have easily gone in the other direction. Fortunately for Vick, his biggest detractors have moved on and aren’t really keeping up with his latest activities. Vick participated in a reality show last year that humanized him in the eyes of sports fans, and often that’s all it takes to be forgiven.

I’m sure PETA will release a statement expressing sadness that Vick is being in any way allowed to move on with his life given his past actions, but it will have zero effect on Vick’s reputation going forward or how the fans receive him in the stadium. There will also be grumblings if Vick shows flashes of his old self when he consistently struggled to find receivers. Still, Vick wins in this case and the Eagles lose by continuing their streak of mistreating their most loyal players. [Okay that's not media analysis that's my biased amateur sports reporter opinion].

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September13,2010

The Problem With Defending Kanye West

We all defend people we like. If we think we identify with someone, we’ll always find a way to defend their actions. If you’ve ever seen me in a debate about Harold Ford Jr., you’ll know that’s true. I’m a big fan of Ford and am notoriously skillful at finding some right in all of his wrongs.

But there are some instances in which I have to give it up. Like when Ford wanted to run for Senate in NY but neglected to ever once file his taxes there. Or, when asked about whether or not he’d been to Long Island, his answer was that he flew over it once in his helicopter.

Talk about out of touch.

Those are exactly the words I would use to describe those who defend Kanye West’s actions. West is 33  in celeb years, which probably makes him more like 36. Still, at his age he, last year, jumped on stage to snatch an award out of Taylor Swift’s hand and inform her and the rest of America that MTV was entitled to their little opinion but really she needed to sit her ass down because Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” was the greatest video of all time.

OF ALL TIME!

Yes, better than Thriller, better than Janet Jackson’s “Rhythm Nation,” better than the Eurthymics “Sweet Dreams,” Missy’s “Rain” video, Korn’s “Freak on a Leash,” and anything ever made by Madonna, Lady GaGa, Duran Duran, or anyone else.

Obviously, that was the alcohol talking. A bottle of alcohol that he apparently passed around to others who, thankfully, were able to remain in their seats despite whether or not they agreed with who won subsequent awards.

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August18,2010

When It Comes to Dr. Laura, Why Are We Upset?

By now you’ve heard that Dr. Laura was heavily criticized for saying nigger 11 times on air. You probably also know that she announced she was ending her long standing radio show and found a convenient excuse to do so. An excuse that will only lead her to more money and glory among her audience.

What I wonder about this “controversy” is what really upsets us when these things happen and whether there is a point (i.e. positive result) to the outrage. When Mel Gibson threatens that his girlfriend’s provocative wardrobe will get her raped by a “pack of niggers” or when Imus calls a group of young female basketball players “nappy headed hoes,” we go through the same dramatic steps: outrage, minor consequence, and rebirth or redemption.

Imus, who I was fan of (and remain a fan of), was back on the air the following year. Gibson’s most recent outburst wasn’t his first. Since we enter this rinse, wash and repeat cycle ever so often, I have to ask, what matters more, the words or the point of view? And what is it we want from these language-offenders?

Clearly, Dr. Laura has said any number of racist and homophobic things over the last 20 years without uttering slurs in the public sphere. There’s also any number of people expressing racist, homophobic, and sexist perspctives that take to the airwaves every day. Is it okay for them to spew their hate as long a they use accepted language?

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August12,2010

Why Kill Someone Who Won’t Know They’re Dead?

Back in 2005, a producer for CNN’s Crossfire called me about having my boss on the show. For those who don’t remember Crossfire it was a cantankerous show with famed Democratic strategists James Carville (the man who made me love politics) and Paul Begala representing the left and the late conservative writer Robert Novak and pundit Tucker Carlson representing the right. INSERT SHOUTING!!

Crossfire, in my opinion, solidified the current trend of setting up every conversation as right vs. left. There were times during Crossfire when conclusions were drawn but mostly there was a lot of talking “at” each other. The interviews were priceless.

The most well-known Crossfire interview was with Daily Show host Jon Stewart. The results were, shall we say, disastrous.

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