Freshman Congressman Alan Grayson has taken heat recently for running a spot against his opponent, Daniel Webster, now referred to as the “Taliban Dan” ad.
Last night, he went on to Anderson Cooper 360 to discuss the ad. This was clearly not going to be a “soft” interview, and a media trainer or political speech coach could have helped. The clip can be observed here.
There are a number of lessons that one can learn, including:
1. Facial expressions matter - the Congressman smirked throughout the interview – not great television;
2. Remember the audience - from the tone in the responses to some of the actual responses, the Congressman’s tone was fairly harsh, often directed toward the host; this will never work with a media-savvy host like Cooper who kept his cool the entire time, setting up a nice contrast;
3. Acknowledging an accusation or speculation is fraught with peril: Opening Exchange - Anderson’s opening question “…calling him Taliban Dan, its equivalent to calling someone a Nazi or a Maoist, why are you traveling down that path.”
Grayson’s response, “…in a way your right, we let that ad run and die a natural death, and now we’re running an entirely different ad on the same point.” (acknowledging that you are doing the equivalent of calling your opponent a Nazi isn’t a great idea)
Quick example of a better response: “My opponent continues to promote policies that will….” or “The point is that my opponent…”
4. Always lead with your key point/message – Didn’t happen in the lead (see above);
5. Don’t interrupt the host;
6. Quick, rapid hand movement appears especially distorted on television;
7. Defensiveness doesn’t work – Staying on message and sticking to talking points while looking defensive and making defensive comments “Why do you say things like that”; “I think what’s happening here is you are reaching for ways to attack me…”; “..people like you…”;