Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Hardball Q&A

As the dueling Democratic presidential candidates look to Texas, the current front runner, Senator Barack Obama and his team recently relied on Texas Senator Kirk Watson as personality du jour to convince Americans that Obama is the best choice as the next President of the United States.

During yesterday's televised interview between Watson and Chris Matthews, host of MSNBC's "Hardball," the Texas senator quickly fell into the hands of his interviewer, and underscored the importance of preparation prior to any exchange with a reporter.

Too many business executives -- but especially politicians -- believe their wit and ego are sufficient to master any conversation with a reporter. Watson's disastrous exchange on public television now lives forever on YouTube as a classic blunder, and the results of what can happen when the PR expertise is absent or ignored as part of the preparation.

Taking the time to thoughtfully ponder the possible questions and shape the appropriate responses is time well-spent. Taking the time to establish key message points for your interview is absolute, but be sure your message points have substance. Watson's interview with Matthews indicates he took the time for neither. His derelict expression was all too telling, and was not only embarrassing for him, but embarrassing for Texans.

Watson's inability to tout any of Obama's accomplishments demonstrates he, like many Americans, is lured by the packaging, but ignorant of its substance. Daily, the news media interviews the public about why they like Obama, and consistently, the answers are generic. People focus on his vision, his charisma, his new blood and expressions of hope. Few express their support of him based on an articulate expression that they know and like what he has done already.

This is where Senator Hillary Clinton does well to differentiate herself in testimonies by the public and by public leaders who lend her their support. Her campaign is doing a better job of articulating her advocacy for health insurance for children and her understanding of international issues.

I hope Texans will observe with wisdom and gather their facts before voting in the state's primary on March 4. Until then, there will be many testimonials for both Democratic candidates, but who is to say whether either candidate can stand up in November against the experience of Republican Senator John McCain?

Let's be sure we all do a better job of preparing and studying our Q&As.