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.