Public relations, politics and baseball

Well, we’re just a few hours from the Iowa caucuses. That’s where a few people who may or may not vote in the general election get to select the nominees to run for president in November. Those of us in Ohio – and elsewhere – get to sit on our thumbs. Maybe Michael Bloomberg will join the race in the spring as an independent. That would at least give the pundits on TV something to shout at each other about.

So since we can’t do anything about politics, let’s talk about something really important: baseball and Roger Clemens. As I wrote about previously, Roger Clemens is going to be interviewed by Mike Wallace this Sunday on CBS’s 60 Minutes. Clemens was named in the Mitchell report as one of many baseball stars who allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens denies this and is embarking on a media relations effort to protect his reputation.

OK, since Clemens has decided to participate in this interview with Mike Wallace, what advice as a public relations pro would you give him in preparing for the broadcast?

Here’s what I’d tell him:

  • Be honest. Tell the truth. Don’t use qualifiers. If there is something out there you don’t want Wallace to ask you about or you can’t talk completely about, don’t do the interview.
  • Maintain eye contact with Wallace. Smile. Try to relax. Be comfortable.
  • Know what points you want to make – and make them. Don’t let Wallace control the interview.

On the other side, Jon Friedman in a column Jan. 2 on MarketWatch, says the Clemens’ 60 Minutes interview makes him cringe.

Friedman says: “Call me skeptical or even cynical. I just can’t help but wonder how tough Sunday’s ballyhooed “60 Minutes” interview with accused steroids abuser Roger Clemens will be.

“My problem is that Mike Wallace is asking the questions. I suspect that his friendship with Clemens will prevent him from making the baseball star sweat. And there is plenty to probe.” (Sorry, can’t find the link to the complete story online.)

Well, there’s an issue for an ethics class. But let’s stick with media relations and preparing for interviews.

What questions should Wallace ask? At a minimum, how about these:

  • Did you ever use steroids or other performance-enhancing drugs?
  • Do you know of any teammates or major league ballplayers who did?
  • If you didn’t use performance-enhancing drugs, then someone must have lied about you to Mitchell and his group. Who would that person be – and why? The New York Times has an interesting article on this aspect of the story.

My suggestion is that Clemens practice answering these questions — and I’m sure a host of others — before Sunday. Television is an unforgiving medium for people who try to dodge questions or are unprepared. And as I said previously, I really hope that Clemens is telling the truth. And if so, I give him credit for doing this interview. But the nature of television is why many CEOs decline opportunities for TV interviews; they may be OK with print, but TV, that’s a different matter altogether.

And then finally I would tell Clemens that in spite of his best efforts the interview might still not turn out in his favor. That happened this morning on Today. David Gregory grilled Mitt Romney. Let’s just say that I bet Romney expected an easier, softer interview. You can see the clip on MSNBC; go to the video link for the Today show.

Ohio holds its presidential primaries March 4. By that time, I expect the only issue will be how badly the various counties throughout the state can mess up the voting.

The Cleveland Indians head to spring training in mid-February.

Play ball!


5 responses to “Public relations, politics and baseball

  1. I too have some skepticism about the 60 minutes interview—and not that I think Wallace won’t be fair. I think, probably, he will. But I think that the perception, the popular public perception is that we can’t trust this sort of situation. And what does truth matter in the long run of those skepticisms. Not much, but for tellers OR believers I think.

    Also, tonight Obama and Hucklebee (as you call him) won in Ohio. And even as an absentee voter, I know that there is only one thing I can count on as an active, Ohio voter:

    the 85% chance that my vote will get misread or misrepresented or misfiled or mistaken for the wrong candidate come primary or popular vote. And then (when the few journalists and lawyers try and fail to investigate it), it will be my voter print-out that they find in the dumpster behind the gymnasium.

    Thus is America. And so it goes.

  2. Dad–This Billy C poem reminds me of this post:

  3. I guess I don’t trust the 60 Minutes mindset, nor Mike Wallace’s gusto. Maybe Andy Rooney should interview him instead? Ha. Connie Chung? But I think your PR advice is solid, for both interviewer and interviewee (is that a word?). I think your advice should be given to politicians as well. Speaking of which, I’m looking for a solid, reputable, easily digestible and neutral-as-possible take on the major candidates. I really don’t know how I’m going to cast my pregnant chad yet. Any sources you’d recommend? Saw a hockey game last night, by the way. The Youngstown Steelhounds. It was a blast. That and being friends with runners is about as athletic as I get.

  4. Kelly,

    Hi. Well, we’ll see what happens with Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes. I read in the New York Times today that Clemens has been called to testify with some others at a congressional hearing. That should be interesting.

    Hockey is a great sport. I went to a lot of Pittsburgh Hornets and Pittsburgh Penguins games. Lots of fun. The problem with the pro hockey leagues now relates to the saying that someone made: “I went to a fight and a hockey game broke out.” So it goes.

    And then there is politics. I’ll be honest. I don’t pay much attention to the candidates at this point. And I certainly don’t get emotionally invested in any of them. The reason? By the time those of us in Ohio get to vote in a primary, the contest has long been decided. What if, for example, you had an interest in Joe Biden? He folded quicker than a tent in a tornado; not sure he even made it to the end of the Iowa debacle.
    So I’ll wait until I see who has a realistic chance at the nomination. Then I’ll let you know. And since most of Ohio appears determined to use computers to record the voting, we’ll most likely look back on the pregnant chad era as the good old days.


  5. Well, I watched the Clemens interview. I thought Wallace asked some good questions and Clemens seemed a little nervous (although he could just be really overwhelmed if he was falsely accused).

    But the thing that really struck me about 60 minutes last night was Lara Logan’s interview of Musharaff. Now THAT was a good interview. If you didn’t see it, here is the link:

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