Rand Paul Loses His Wits and Fails to Connect

April 10, 2015
rand paul interview

What the heck was the Senator and eye surgeon from Kentucky thinking when he broke the cardinal rule of spin and attacked the media? Get a grip guy. In this game, everyone learns early that there’s no grass to green by criticizing your interrogator. And Rand Paul only wasted precious time by lecturing Today Show co-host Savannah Guthrie on how to ask a question. Was Wednesday’s set up more opinion than probing? Sure. Was that to be expected? Absolutely. The game in these instances isn’t to be right, or to confront. Rather, it’s to deliver the goods, on message and on mark, regardless of how the question is asked. Save the sermon Rand Paul. What you should have done was:

  1. Don’t take the bait. Rather pound away at the message. Hit it again and again. Save the attack for your opponent, not the media. Get right into it: “Savannah, you raise some very important questions. Unlike the President, I do see Iran as a threat that must be dealt with and prevented from developing highly lethal nuclear weapons that pose tremendous risk to us and our friend Israel.” Get it?
  2. Never show your teeth or frustration. It doesn’t play well, but even worse, shows a lack of grace under pressure. It was Howard Dean’s guttural growl that ended his 2004 Presidential campaign. Rand Paul isn’t even into primary season yet and he’s already lost it over a line of questioning. I would hate to see him take on Putin or al-Assad after seeing what Guthrie did to him.
  3. Always know what you want to leave your audience with. It’s a basic tenant of media training. No matter the question asked, make sure you leave them with what you want them to know. Yet, that’s surprisingly difficult for many to remember. Need to prioritize your message? Do this exercise. If the President of the United States walked into the room, what would you want him to know about you, your company, your mission, or your passion?
  4. You gain little by ever criticizing the media. One of my greatest surprises across my entire career is just how thin-skinned those responsible for probing and criticizing others are when criticism is leveled at them. You gain nothing by attacking a reporter’s style of reporting. If it’s not a mistake of fact, let it go, man. And alternatively work to persuade and enlighten instead of waging a war on a journalist’s style.
  5. Oh, yea, it made a big difference that she was a woman. Finger wagging never works, but it’s particularly inflammatory when directed at women or minorities. It’s not a question of intent. Rather, it’s what women hear and remember once spoken down to.
  6. Really? Eight no’s? “No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Listen, you’ve editorialized,” shouted Paul. Now neurolinguistic programming might be nothing more than new age Tony Robbin’s mumbo jumbo. But, Rand, eight times?

Hey, the really good news in Wednesday’s Rand Paul melt down is that we just gained another how-not-to video for our media training seminars. Thanks Rand for reminding us how to never win friends and influence people.

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