Throw away your PR 101 handbook
From a purely marketing perspective, I was a big fan of the Straight Talk Express. Just loved the name. It was immediately identifiable, not too serious and managed to embody the John McCain package. To his credit — and sometimes detriment — McCain was very open with reporters and was well known for the casual, relaxed relationship he fostered. That is, until McCain felt that Barack Obama stole his thunder. McCain appears now to continually battle to retain his composure and not lose his temper with the media — case in point, his latest interview.
In an upcoming TIME Magazine interview, McCain does exactly what most PR books will tell you to do — but seasoned PR people will tell you to avoid. He sticks entirely to his talking points. Even when they don’t make sense with the question. And when he doesn’t have a talking point remotely applicable to the question? He just sits there silently, glowering.
The reporters who conducted the Q&A were, I would hazard a guess, both annoyed and gleeful. Annoyed that he agreed to a Q&A and then refused to answer the questions — and gleeful that they have an interview one would expect from a novice (an irritable one at that) not a presidential candidate. McCain gave them the brush to paint a picture of him as a prickly, unyielding cranky old guy. Right out of the DNC handbook.
The next time you’re going to be interviewed, remember this article. You should absolutely have talking points and a clear message. But don’t agree to an interview if you are insincere about answering questions. An interview is an interaction, not dictation.