Media Lessons From Chris Christie

Did you see Chris Christie’s speech at the GOP convention?  The very-watchable NJ Governor provided some very good lessons on smart use of the media.

Governor Christie has a larger-than-life persona which we all identify him with, especially when he speaks in public.  So there was much anticipation ahead of the convention about how the governor would act onstage.  I heard former NJ Governor Tom Kean say “he needs to be himself.”  He was right, of course, because that’s what we all expected from Christie, and anything different would have seemed odd, out of place and confusing.

The governor didn’t disappoint.  From his opening fist-pump to his no-nonsense style of speaking, he was vintage Chris Christie.  He even wisely made sure to slip in a Bruce Springsteen reference–  a reference that really didn’t fit in the speech, but was there because it was something everyone was looking for, and he knew it.  Smart.

The speech itself wasn’t a blockbuster, but it was deemed a big success because it was exactly what we all thought it would be.  That’s a great lesson for you and your media appearances.  When producers, bookers and reporters choose you for their stories, they have a certain understanding of where you stand and what you are going to say.  Oftentimes, segments and stories are built around various guests/sources and their expected responses.  These guests/sources play off of one another and create a narrative.  Those with widely differing opinions on a topic who “mix it up” really grab an audience (Remember the zany Dan Aykroyd/Jane Curtin insulting debate segment on early “Saturday Night Live” shows?).  Fox News has soared to the top of the ratings with this formula, calling it “fair and balanced” reporting.

However, if you are brought in to discuss a subject and don’t respond as anticipated, that’s a problem.  Suddenly the producer/reporter has to find a way to salvage the plan he or she had so carefully laid out prior to the piece, because YOU messed it up!

Let me assure you, media people don’t like surprises.  And if you surprise them with something they don’t expect and it gums up a segment or story, they’ll never call you again.

This doesn’t mean you have to be an automaton and give the same answers all the time, but always remember why you have been included in the story.  In the end, you need to “dance with who brung you.”

Like Governor Christie giving a nod to Bruce Springsteen, you will do well in your media appearances by living up to expectations.

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