Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Young Earns Passing Marks

You’ve got to love serendipity.

Through pure happenstance, 9th District U.S. Rep. Todd Young, R-Ind., happened to be holding a town hall meeting at Ivy Tech Community College last week while I was teaching an introductory speech class there. Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, I took my class over to watch his speech.

It was my first time to meet Young. The freshman Republican was very gracious, taking time to meet my students before the presentation and mentioning them several times during it. He even managed to poke a little good-natured fun at me, saying I should give the students extra credit for attending. (Don’t worry congressman. I will.)

Young’s presentation was straight from the GOP playbook, but solid. He talked for around an hour about the country’s mounting debt, saying Congress has an obligation to act. He repeatedly warned of entitlements, which he called “autopilot” spending.

Young made a compelling case – even if I didn’t agree with everything he said.

From a public speaking standout, Young delivered. He was relaxed, had his sleeves rolled up, and spoke without a podium. He didn’t sugarcoat anything and answered questions respectfully, but unflinchingly. He’d definitely pass my class.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Bullying the Bully

University of Kentucky fans are outraged that ESPN commentator Bob Knight dare insult their beloved head coach basketball coach, John Calipari. Count me among those who couldn’t care less.

Calipari has been needlessly jabbing away at University of Louisville head coach Rick Pitino for months. His passive-aggressive assault has included the following:

• Calipari said he was rooting for U of L late in the season since his team had “spanked” them earlier in the year.

• Calipari said UK’s Eric Bledsoe was not as highly touted as U of L’s Peyton Siva, but was drafted early (while Siva was not, presumably because of superior coaching).

• Calipari said UK would not lose its assistant coaches (like Louisville has) because its jobs are destination positions (unlike Louisville).

I’ve added the material in parenthesis to give you an idea of what the slippery one really meant since he won’t come right out and say it.

Pitino didn’t respond to any of these barbs because he’s too classy. As we all know, Knight has no such filter.

Knight apparently didn’t get it all right, but I’d argue the context is close. Regardless, it’s hard for me to feel sorry for the bully who gets bullied. Or as my mom always says, “don’t dish it out if you can’t take it.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

A Fundamental Lesson in Base Running

The very first day of Clark’s Little League practice this year, the coach put away the gloves and bats and worked exclusively on base running. He painstakingly explained the difference between rounding the base toward second and safely overrunning the base by turning to the right. This was a tough lesson for kids who were more eager to hit than run.

Although it tested his patience, the coach stayed at it until the kids started to pick it up. That’s because the fundamentals are important to learn in baseball … even for a Major Leaguer, as I discovered earlier this week at Cincinnati’s Great American Ballpark.

In the bottom of the ninth inning of a one-run game against the Pirates, the Reds’ Jay Bruce beat out an infield single. Bruce initially overran the bag safely, turning to the right, as Little Leaguers are taught to do. However, the ball was overthrown, and Bruce moved ever so slightly into fair territory to ponder taking an extra base. The second baseman chased down the overthrown ball and tagged Bruce out. It was a key out in a game the Reds went on to lose.

Although this was an unusual play, there was no need to explain what had just happened to my 8-year-old son. He had seen it many times before … from the first day of practice, in fact. As it turns out, fundamentals are as fundamental for Major Leaguers as Little Leaguers.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Responding to a Crisis

There was an interesting discussion at an International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) meeting in Louisville, Ky., this week regarding crisis communications. Two veteran TV journalists who have moved to the public relations realm were on the panel. They had very different perspectives when it comes to on-camera appearances during a crisis.

Nel Taylor, the communications lead for a home health care business, says she has a policy of never doing on-camera interviews with a negative story. She says she cooperates and communicates, issues statements, takes responsibility, etc., but declines requests to go on camera. She said her company is spread all over the country and it would be unfair to ask employees to shoulder that responsibility. There is more downside to doing these interviews than upside, she said. TV journalists have so many deadlines it’s difficult for them to take time with a nuanced story, she said. Plus, the medium lends itself to a storytelling style that pits “good guys” against “bad guys.”

Mark Hebert was a hard-hitting statehouse reporter. He is now the PR lead for the University of Louisville. Hebert noted that a public university is different from a private institution in structure and scope. U of L doesn’t get a lot of national media (outside of sports). He knows or has worked with most of the TV reporters who contact him. Furthermore, Hebert spends about 25 percent of his time pitching positive stories. Reporters wouldn’t be receptive to him if he wouldn’t go on camera during a crisis, he said. Plus, reporters can always “ambush” a public person like the president of a university anyway.

They both took an optimistic outlook on social media. Hebert said he treats bloggers just like other journalists, as long as they behave like them. Taylor conceded that news moves faster in this environment, but so can the response.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Classic Rock Strikes a Chord

I came of age in the 80s. The sound track of my life was hair bands, southern rock, pop and punk. I didn’t care for whatever came before and cared even less about the next big thing – rap, which seemed like nothing but noise to me.

It’s funny how things change … and remain the same.

I still loves me some classic rock, but my 14-year-old son loves it even more. In the age of Lady Gaga, he prefers Pink Floyd. He likes Styx and is an especially big fan of the Beatles. He has nearly all their albums. I mean CDs. I mean MP3s.

Of course, I knew of The Beatles, but didn’t like them very much. They seemed too soft to me. I couldn’t get into the whole peacenik thing. Same thing was true for my wife, who preferred her British rock from The Rolling Stones. So only recently have we both acquired an appreciation for The Beatles, courtesy of our teenage son. Imagine that. He’s also introduced us to the Electric Light Orchestra.

We have a few raps albums, too. I mean CDs. I mean MP3s. Believe or not, those belong to me. Somewhere over the years, I’ve inexplicably acquired a taste for it. I think I sometimes share the rappers’ world view of being put upon.

Maybe someday I’ll even introduce Trent to Eminem.