Lothery & Associates

First Lady on Today: A Performance Report

At this point, you can probably say it with me. We’re talking about a political figurehead, so that means you have to check your red, blue, and tea hat at the door.  We’re looking at messaging, media performance and delivery skills…only.

Let’s take the performance measures one by one:

  • Giving a “no comment” response: Typically we tell clients to say anything but the actual words, “no comment” because that magic phrase usually will shut down an audience. Phrases like: I wish there was more to tell you, company policy forbids me to discuss that with you, we can’t discuss pending litigation or internal personnel issues.  However, when asked a direct question about what the President thought about the violence in Egypt, Michelle Obama said, “I’m not going to comment on his policy decision, but what I can say is…” She scores a point here, because she didn’t stop at the “no comment.” She did give something tangible for the reporter to build on.
  • Be Who You Are: When the first lady said, “There isn’t an issue my husband deals with that isn’t tough. It’s a tough job being President of the United States, she did a number of things. First, she neutralized, or at least minimized any beliefs that the job/role of President is something anyone can do. It’s tough, there are hard choices, and sometimes people make mistakes other times, they win some.  By identifying the proverbial elephant in the room, she lessens opportunities for critics to take jabs. She also delivered the line with a voice tone that implied, “doesn’t everyone know this” that for the few who weren’t sold on the message, they were pulled back in to pay attention, and think again.  Similarly, had she delivered the exact same line with a defensive or biting tone, she would have offended and even angered both critics and supporters alike. She chose wisely.
  • Overall Delivery Skills: On this one, I have to give her a solid B. She lost points with the few “eye rolls”  she let out.  While anyone would likely have done so in their own homes, with their friends while discussing the progression of their children from tweens to teens, I don’t think national television was the setting for it. Her posture was not as formal as it perhaps, should have been, as she appeared to be leaning forward most of the time, which caused her to drop her head and speak “out of the top of her eyes” rather than an even, straight forward look. The top of eyes look gives in to the criticism that she’s a bit condescending.  For everyone to note, sitting in a chair is horrible for an interview. It allows bad habits to appear. If you are in an interview, sit with both feet on the floor and try to keep your back from resting against the chair, or your arms on the arm rests. This will force you to sit up straight and keep a physically level head.  Once you remove those parts, her overall delivery was nice, friendly, conversational, humble, and protective. She came across as credible and concerned, and just needed to polish up a little bit.

You may not be interviewed as a head of state or the spouse thereof, but the tips about managing situations calling for a “no-comment-type-response”, tough questions, or delivery skills are things that apply to us all. Remember, great communication skills make the difference between where you are, and where you want to be!

 

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