Executive Media Training – Gerard Braud – New Orleans Saints – Super Bowl Parade

In the Executive Media Training classes I teach, I always emphasize the power of a verbatim quote as a key message, rather than relying on talking points and the ad lib problems associated with talking points. So to prove the power of a pre-planned, verbatim quote, I recently set out to literally be the one-in-a-million quote.

My beloved New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl. Hence, a Super Bowl parade was planned and one million people turned out to watch. As my daughter and I drove into the city that day, we saw the media gathering to cover the euphoria. So I told her, “I think dad needs to be on the front page in the morning.”

She gave that uneasy laugh, knowing I’m a man of my word and knowing I’m always willing to do something extreme to make a point. Finally she asked, “So what’s your quote going to be.”

I replied, “We’ve suffered the American nightmare… no… we’ve endured the American nightmare… it’s our turn to… no… it’s our time to share in the American dream.”

She laughed. Several hours later while waiting for the parade to begin I saw a reporter I know. I called him over and asked if he needed a quote for his story. He rolled his eyes, then asked, “What is it?” as though he expected something lame.

“We’ve endured the American nightmare. It’s our time to share in the American dream.”

The reporter’s eyes lit up. His body quivered and shook. He scribbled as fast as he could. You could see euphoria spreading throughout his physical being as he wrote. So I repeated the phrase again, to make sure he got it right.

“We’ve endured the American nightmare. It’s our time to share in the American dream.”

I then spelled my name for him carefully, so he could get it right, and so my Google Alert would let me know when the quote got posted.

By the time I got home from the parade, Google had alerted my inbox. The quote was now the lead quote in another reporter’s story.

Wednesday morning was my birthday and the phone started ringing at 7 a.m. “Gerard, have you seen the front page. Your quote is in the headline!” Calls like that continued to come in all day.

I had achieved my goal. I wanted to prove that if you really try, you can be the one-in-a-million quote. After all, I write quotes for a living. I teach kick-butt key message writing classes. I teach executive media training.

The ego kicked in. Would my daughter post a note on her Facebook wall that says, “My dad, Gerard Braud, is a sound bite stud.” With Mardi Gras just days away, would the city declare, “Gerard Braud is the King of Quotes.” Can the coach practice what he preaches?

Well, with my own made-up accolades aside, let’s look at the lessons learned and what you can apply with your own executives in executive media training:

1) Verbatim quotes should be mandatory for every executive who heads out to do an interview. Many executives fight me in media training when I suggest they learn verbatim quotes. Often they tell me, “I don’t want to sound rehearsed.” Or the say, “I don’t want to sound like a robot. I want to sound natural.” Did my quote sound natural? You bet. Did my sound bite sound spontaneous? Yes. The secret for every executive in media training is to internalize their quote. One must say the quote to many people, many times in practice, in order to internalize both the words and the meaning. Only with practice can an executive deliver a flawless quote.

2) Talking points don’t work. Most media trainers issue bullet points to executives as talking points and key messages. These usually fail to be good quotes and often result in bad quotes. Talking points force the executive to ad lib. The ad lib results in the executive saying negatives that should not have been uttered.

3) The facts don’t matter. Notice my quote contained no facts or figures. It contained emotion. I organized a combination of words that embodied a national news story of New Orleans overcoming the Hurricane Katrina nightmare and emerging into its share of the American Dream of victory.

4) If you want to control the media, you must control the quotes in a story. Reporters are instructed from their first day in Journalism school to use quotes in their stories. Every story is a puzzle, made up of sentences – some written by the reporter and some written by the people they interview, personified as quotes. A good reporter builds his or her story around the quotes they get through interviews. Hence, if you control the quotes, you control the story, and you control the media.

5) A good quote results in an endorphin release by the reporter. If you’ve ever heard an athlete describe a “runner’s high,” they are describing the endorphins released by the body that actually is a feel good sensation. Give a reporter a great quote and watch the endorphin release. It is very much like watching a “word junkie” getting hyped up on words.

Can you control the media? Yes.

Can you control whether you can be the one-in-a-million quote? Yes.

Can your spokespeople be taught how to deliver verbatim quotes? Yes.

Was this a great birthday present? Yes.

Will my ego subside and will I come down from my “word” cloud? Not likely. The front page is now framed in my office… a little birthday present from the best wife in the world.

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