Friday, February 29, 2008

Nothing: Often a Good Thing to Do, Always a Good Thing to Say

I rarely suggest that someone decline an interview. After all, with preparation and discipline, an interview can be a good way to deliver your message.

But there are exceptions. For instance, this train wreck on the Today Show where Matt Lauer slices and dices Drew Peterson, the Chicago area cop whose last two wives (he’s had four) have either been murdered (Wife #3) or disappeared(Wife #4). After noting the “coincidence”, the interview gives Lauer an opportunity to matter of factly restate all the evidence against Peterson, and to devastating effect.

Lauer: “How do you respond?”

Peterson: “How can I respond?” or “I can’t respond” or “I don’t know how to respond to that.” Brutal.

But it only gets worse (or better for Lauer) when Peterson’s lawyer sits right next to him, and says more than once “I have to step in here” or “That’s a loaded question.” Next time Drew, while I know it’s good for your lawyer’s business, don’t bring him on the Today Show with you. (Actually, Peterson’s lawyer may be the only guy to benefit from this PR disaster.)
Here’s my question: Why on earth would he agree to this interview?

Well, here’s some experience-based speculation: Sometimes, people get fond of seeing themselves in the media, and forget to ask the basic question “Will this help me or hurt me?” Peterson has shown particularly bad judgment, with a profile in People magazine and an appearance on a radio talk show entitled “Win a Date with Drew Peterson”. Wow.

Peterson may also have fallen for the Today Show producer’s siren song that he would have a chance to “tell your story.” Sometimes, people like Peterson seriously overestimate their ability to talk themselves out of anything. (Here, it’s the job of someone like me to gently say “In reality, you stink at this.”) Also, for this to work, you actually need a good, credible story to tell. In Peterson’s case, not so much.

The only rationale I can think of is the following, and it’s a stretch: let’s say Peterson gets off. This interview will raise his profile in case he writes a book, and, he hopes, increase sales.
Other than that, I’m at a complete loss.

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