It’s fun for politicians and business executives to trash the news media for being salacious and nasty. Indeed, the reputation is often well-deserved. But a smart politician or business executive can do a lot of things to avoid negative headlines like the one above.
Here’s what happened. Vice President Biden was seen on video giving advice and encouragement to Senator Chris Coons’ daughter in a way that looked mildly awkward. It turns out that Biden has been a family friend for the girl’s entire life and was just whispering friendly words of encouragement. But the media and the blogosphere had fun with the video clip regardless.
Next, Sen. Coons was on Fox News Channel and was asked this about his daughter by Chris Wallace, “Does she think the vice president is creepy?”
Coons then responded, “Chris, she doesn’t think the vice president is creepy.”
And that’s how you end up with headlines everywhere like
“Dem Senator: No, My Daughter Doesn’t Think Biden’s ‘Creepy,’” which, of course, reinforces the message that Biden is creepy.
While it’s fun for Democrats to attack Fox News Channel, it is important to note that this whole sound bite crisis was easily preventable.
The second Coons said “She doesn’t think the vice president is creepy,” the “creepy” word was destined for universal quotation. It’s simply too good a sound bite word for editors and reporters to pass up.
Here’s how Coons should have responded when asked the same question:
“No, my daughter has know Vice President Biden her whole life and she thinks of him as a close and trusted family member.”
Please note, this is not the same thing as avoiding the question, dodging the question or saying “no comment.” It is answering the question without repeating the negative words of the reporter and using your own positive content. And that’s how you avoid negative sound bites.
TJ Walker helps people creative positive sound bites to communicate their messages through the media. You can contact him at 212.764.4955