Mark Grimm


Supreme Court Must End Dinosaur

Oral arguments on the constitutionality of gay marriage will be presented to the U.S. Supreme Court tomorrow….and you won’t see a word of it. Only the people standing in line for days will get one of the seats inside. If they are lucky.

The Court still bans cameras in court, an archaic practice for a body that has made numerous decisions supporting the First Amendment. They present no credible reason for keeping the public shut out.

Reason 1:
They claim brief soundbites could present things out of context.
All the more reason to allow unfettered access by the public to the whole event.

Reason 2:
Justices would loose their relative anonymity.
Sorry, but getting asked for an autograph at lunch is not enough of a reason to ban America from watching its top court’s proceedings.

Reason 3:
The cameras would disrupt the “etiquette” of the court.
Get over yourselves.

Some of the most difficult issues of our time are settled in the Supreme Court and we should be able to watch every bit of the debate. Indeed, the high court should be encouraging such interest, not preventing it.

Get your federal lawmakers to pump in some sunshine.

The writer is a former news reporter who covered many courts and is a lifelong First Amendment advocate.

Be a Great Radio Guest: A Host’s Tips

Grimm_FrKevinA radio appearance can really help your business or cause. Here’s a few suggestions to make the most of it.

After hosting the Siena Alumni Connection radio show for 14 years, here’s my best advice:

1- Be Willing
Half the people invited to be on the show, do not agree to be on. Some are afraid of being on the radio, or think they are not interesting or feel they do not have the time. This is a missed opportunity. Think about it: turning down a half-hour exposure to thousands of people at no cost? About half my guests are doing their first radio show ever and they all manage to do quite well.

2- Send a Good Introduction
Do not make the host track you down for a bio sketch. The host has other things to do. Send a bio sketch a week ahead of time. Avoid sending a ton of information that the host has to sift through, most hosts won’t read through it anyway. Your bio should be a short, clear narrative about what makes you interesting. It should not be a long laundry list of everything you’ve ever done. Here’s my own intro as a guide. View here.

3- Do Not Ask for a List of Questions
The host’s job is to facilitate an interesting conversation, not ask a list of questions. It is a good idea to ask beforehand what the topics will be and prepare accordingly.

4- Suggest Things the Host Wouldn’t Know to Ask About
The most interesting things about you often do not appear on your resume or LinkedIn profile. I once posed that question to a former Siena coach and he told me he once passed out in the locker room prior to a game while at another college. Good thing his head coach had a question for him that required the head coach to return to the locker room. The locker room had a carbon monoxide leak and the coach would otherwise have been found dead shortly after. The coach has done a thousand media interviews, but only one had that story on it….ours.

 5- Do Not Bring Pages of Notes
Your task is to be conversational, not be a data factory. Have a general idea of the points you want to make and discuss them in a natural way.

6- Give Short Answers
Long-winded answers are audience killers. Keep your responses short. The host will follow up if needed.

7- Be Passionate
Enthusiasm is contagious. Bring some with you. Speak from the heart and do not worry if you say “uh” too much.

8- Avoid Canceling at the Last Minute.
You’ve made a commitment, stick to it. Studio time has to be arranged for the interviews and scheduling is a big chore. Arranging for a last-minute replacement is very difficult.

9- Have Fun
Radio is fun. Enjoy the experience. Guests are often amazed at how quickly the show goes by.
Mark Grimm started in radio about 40 years ago. He can help you with your media skills and relations.

Be Valentine’s Day Star: Flowers Wilt, Notes Last

Valentine’s Day is a great chance to show what that special person means to you. Christmas has presents for the kids. Thanksgiving is consumed with food and family gatherings. Valentine’s Day is “show time” for lovers. Make the most of it.

ValentineDayTry something different this year. Write a personal note that is both specific and revealing. If you need a hand getting started, maybe this will help:

1- Jot down the things you love most about your partner. Make a list.
2- Think of specific examples that reflect those traits
3- Locate a photo or two that represents the examples
4- Create a brief outline that tells this special story
5- Start writing

You don’t have to be Hemingway. A little editing here, a little polishing there, and you will have something that will be memorable.

You have the time. How much of it have you spent on social media lately? Give it a break for a moment and pause for something that matters a lot.

Flowers last a week. Candy is loaded with fat. The right note can be an enduring treasure. Go for it!

The writer runs a communications business and has the good fortune of having the best wife and daughter any man could hope for.

Brian Williams’s Only Comeback Hope: Ex-TV Anchor’s Advice

Though NBC has suspended its top anchor, Brian Williams, for six months without pay, there’s no guarantee Williams will be coming back.

NBC took action after its reputation was harmed over revelations Williams lied about a story he covered, and maybe others as well. NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke called it “inexcusable.”

There are two things Williams must do to save his career.

1-Face the Music
He cannot hide from the media forever. At some point soon, he has to explain his actions and convince people he is truly sorry. This must be either at a press conference or during a hard-hitting interview (not at NBC).

 2- Follow This Message
Mr. Williams should say something like this:

I began as a good journalist. But, at some point, I fell into the celebrity pit where self promotion becomes so engrained in your psyche you lose sight of the difference between fact and hype. I don’t know how or when it happened. I only know it was wrong and that I deserve my punishment.

I will disappear from public view during my suspension to contemplate where I went wrong and to prove to myself, and others, public adulation is not the principle sustenance of my life.

I regret the harm I have done to NBC and my profession. I know I have let our viewers down.

I hope I get a second chance. I understand there would be zero tolerance for false or misleading statements. And that second chances are final.

The NY Times reports Williams once told NBC executives he was interested in being a late-night talk show host, perhaps even Leno’s replacement. It confirms his love of celebrity. Can he resist this temptress and return to sound journalism once again. Will he get the chance?

The writer is a former TV news anchor who runs a training seminar, speaking coaching and media strategy firm.

What Brian Williams Should Do Next

(For a later updated blog on Williams, please click here)

“I don’t know what screwed up in my mind.”
– Brian Williams, NBC Evening News anchor


NBC News photo

Mr. Williams will have to do better than that to explain his false statements that his helicopter was shot down in Iraq in 2003. Actually, another chopper was shot down, not his.

When he repeated the false story last week, the Internet exploded with criticism from veterans who were there, leading to an expose in Stars and Stripes.

Williams apologized on the air during a newscast this week, but offered no explanation for why it happened.

Williams must now be willing to adhere to the same level of accountability he would expect from the people he covers. He must face the media. He should hold a press conference (or perhaps a hard-hitting interview with a non NBC journalist) to explain why someone should believe this is a case of sloppy memory or exaggeration, not deliberate deceit. This will allow his viewers, nearly nine million of them a night, to judge for themselves. If he’s not convincing, he’s toast.

Personally, I want to believe Williams did not deliberately lie. He must have known there were too many witnesses to refute his story and he himself has publicly reported it was not his helicopter that was hit. In 2003, he reported, “the Chinook ahead of us was almost blown out of the sky.” In a 2007 blog, he wrote, a RPG hit the “tail rotor of the chopper flying in front of ours.”

Why would a real liar behave this way?

Our memory can play tricks on us sometimes and the alterations often paint us in a more favorable light. Just ask your buddies to recall their best high school football moments. But network news anchors face a higher standard because credibility is the coin of their realm.

I have met Mr. Williams and have followed his career closely. I admire his self- effacing sense of humor. But if he doesn’t face the music in a convincing way, they will start playing “Taps” on his job.

The lead on the “Brian Williams Story” today: Giving people a choice between “sloppy with the facts” and “outright lying” is not a good place for any journalist to be in.

The writer is a former TV news anchor who runs a training seminar, speaking coaching and media strategy firm.

Super Bowl Ads: What Worked, What Didn’t?

Puppies still work. Budweiser’s Super Bowl ad on the lost puppy became the top-rated commercial, according to USA Today’s Ad Meter, a survey of 6,700 consumers.

Many advertisers went the “pulling the heart strings” route this year. It made breaking through the clutter that much harder. And is there is a lot of clutter. I counted 108 ads between the game’s kick-off and final gun, including promos and billboard ads.

The clutter and fierce competition make it difficult to recoup the $4.5 million price tag for a :30 spot. Advertisers pay a premium for the spots, it ‘s like buying a stock when it is high, and count on online views to help mitigate the costs.

The NFL went halfway with its PSA on domestic violence. The 30-second spot it aired was not nearly as gripping as the 60-second spot shown online. Given its awful domestic violence record, it should have aired the 60, especially considering it had five promos for Blacklist, its upcoming program.

Fiat’s “blue pill” ad got a lot of traction, it was funny and made  a simple point. I also liked the Pete Rose “In the Hall” ad — a clever, good natured poke at a controversy.

Many ads made it difficult to know what the product was until the end. Some car dealers were the worst offenders. The Go Daddy ad, a last-minute substitute for a cancelled ad on a puppy mill, was flat, a sharp break with its bombastic rep.

In the end, every advertiser should be asking the same question, is this the best possible use of $4.5 million? Something to ponder while they are pumping their chests over a Super Bowl ad.

The writer, a former TV news anchor, runs a communication and training business.

Belichick Fumbles DeflateGate Presser

New England Patriots Coach Bill Belichick played Pontius Pilate at a nationally broadcast press conference on DeflateGate — the scandal over deflated air pressure in the team’s footballs during the AFC championship.

Belichick, who ended the press conference abruptly after 11 minutes, said he was “shocked” by the revelation and claimed he “never talked to any player or staff member” about football air pressure. Belichick said repeatedly he “had no explanation for what happened.”

His press conference may have added to the controversy. He said reporters would have to check with his quarterback (Tom Brady) to learn more about Brady’s air pressure preferences. An old tape of Brady surfaced yesterday where he indicated he preferred lower inflated footballs to throw. Belichick appeared to shift the focus to Brady with the comment.

Belichick’s situation is complicated by baggage. The NFL fined him a half-million dollars for his role in 2007 SpyGate, when the Patriots broke the rules by using videotape to steal signals. He is also known as incredibly detail oriented, making the “I knew nothing” defense more difficult to believe. It is Belichick’s job to know what his staff may or may not have done.

After fumbles over domestic violence, concussions and bounty money, to name a few, the NFL Commissioner’s current credibility makes resolution of the latest problem more difficult. The NFL assumes it has an unlimited supply of passes for public relations messes. This is risky thinking.

In the meantime, DeflateGate is far from deflated.

The writer is a communication crisis expert and former sportscaster.

Shocking Protester Video Goes Viral

In just eight days, my Facebook video post (beware deplorable language) revealing shocking protester behavior towards police has drawn nearly 1.5 million views. Over 26,000 people I do not know, from all walks of life, have shared the brief video with others.

The video strikes a nerve and reaction to it sends a message worth noting.

Many media outlets, some political leaders and a few race-baiting profiteers have painted a picture of America with contempt for police. New York State’s Attorney General said “everyone is at risk” because the trust between police and the communities they serve has broken down.

Yet, thousands of comments from those who watched the shared video tell a different story. These citizens present overwhelming support and empathy for law enforcement and a rising tide of anger on how all police are being portrayed.

Rusty Devine commented: “If they (the protesters) truly thought cops were that bad would they be in their faces like that? NO WAY!!!” Victoria Van Soest Hare wrote, “So sad…The next generation…We’re screwed!!!!!”

Some responses have come from African-Americans, including this one from Nyetta Abernathy: “We need to teach our children how to take their anger and use it in a productive way. This is terrible and makes the situation worse.”

No police misconduct is acceptable. Those who misuse their authority should be held accountable. But targeting the police avoids the more difficult challenges.

A Justice Department report reveals black youth commit violent crime at a rate five times higher than whites. And other blacks are the most frequent victims of their crimes. This gap is a result of many complex social, economic and cultural problems. Change will only occur when those issues are addressed, working together. Sticking a middle finger into a cop’s face won’t fix anything.

Learn more about Mark’s BOOK here.

The writer gives seminars on communication, police-media relations, organizational development and politics. He also conducts one-on-one speaking coaching.

Connect with Mark on LinkedIn.


Graphic Cancer Ads Prompt Strong Response

Terrie Hall

Terrie Hall

Graphic TV ads attempting to persuade people to quit smoking get strong reactions from the people who view them. Just like taking care of your body for cancer also is important to protect your skin with amazon vitamin c serum. Just ask TV stations about healthcare’s version of negative ads: “We know they are having an impact when we get many hateful calls about them asking us to remove them from the air,” said one TV assignment desk editor.

One of the most striking ads features Terrie Hall of North Carolina who reaches for her wig and fake teeth and speaks through a voice box. Sadly, the ad has outlived her. She died of cancer in 2013.

The ads do get noticed, which is the first challenge any ad faces. The Centers for Disease Control claims their ads work, leading to hundreds of thousands of calls to their stop smoking hotline. And it says, a fair chunk of those callers wind up quitting.

But should the millions of viewers who don’t smoke be subjected to them, while in the comfort of their own living rooms? And could other ads, not so graphic, also work well to get people to quit?

Taxpayers finance the ads. So a greater sensitivity to their reactions, from millions of people, should be expected from our government. The shotgun approach — distribution to a such a mass audience — could be refined to a more targeted audience, especially given the capabilities of social media today.

Local TV stations are responsible for everything they air. But it’s not practical to expect them to cover every one of the cancer ads given their high frequency.

If you have a complaint, you may be better off calling your Congressional representative, not the station. The ads are a public policy initiative.

The writer is a former TV news anchor reporter, adjunct professor and communications coach and strategist.

The Secrets to Embracing Change

A Labor Department study estimates about 65% of current children in grade school will work in a job that does not yet exist. Change is a constant and resisting it is futile and often damaging.

So how do we make change work for us and our company?

The right formula begins with thoughtful management that has a “change strategy.” Managers must include the following:

  • Authorship
    Allow employees to have authorship of the change, instead of imposing it on them. There’s a big difference between “this is what you have to do” versus “these are our goals, how can you make them happen?”
  • Clarity
    The need for the change must be made clear and there can’t be anything vague about the answer to this employee question? “How does this benefit me?” Provide an ongoing dialogue on how the change is working.
  • Benchmark Proof
    Share evidence along the way the change is working. Proof trumps promises every time.
  • Message & Compensation Match
    It is one thing to say this is important, it’s another to back it up with employee compensation. Nothing undercuts change more than a failure to put your money where your mouth is.

The Risk of No Change

For those who feel the status quo serves their interests, understand the risks in not changing. Just 61 companies in the Fortune 500 in 2014 were on the list in 1955, nearly 90% are no longer there. Kodak had about 62,000 employees in the Rochester area in 1982. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 with just over 2,000 employees there. Though it invented digital photography back in 1976, it got shelved because Kodak film was the standard. As one writer put it, Kodak’s unraveling was “not because the company didn’t have the technology to compete in the new era, but because it lacked the vision to use it.”

You Have A Choice

There is no excuse for a poor attitude. You have a choice on how to respond to work conditions. You can close your mind or you can make the most of the cards you’re dealt, often turning anxiety into opportunity.

The founder of Minds at Work, Jason Clarke, says, “You can keep things the same or you can make a difference, but you cannot do both.” Though change may bring anxiety, never underestimate what you are capable of. After all, Michael Jordan got cut from his high school basketball team.

You’re more amazing than you think.

The writer conducts keynotes and seminars on more than 20 business organizational and communication topics. Don’t hesitate to contact him for help: 518.650.5096.