I Really Do Care About Melania Trump’s Jacket Fiasco

By Doug Weller

The distressing humanitarian crisis over children separated from their illegal immigrant families, then held in a US Department of Human Services facility, made global headlines. But sadly, Melania Trump’s jacket made sure the headlines kept rolling.

The media coverage and public outrage over the humanitarian issue finally led to the policy being overturned when Donald Trump, in a rare move, admitted an error and flipped his decision regarding separating children and parents.

So, when Melania Trump set off to visit some of those displaced children in Texas, wearing a jacket emblazoned with ‘I really don’t care, do you?’, she left journalists and the public baffled.

The point of the trip was public relations – to show compassion. But the jacket and its message blew that to bits.

Mainstream media and social media erupted and “insensitive” was the message of the day.

The first lady’s spokesperson, Stephanie Grisham, was quick to clarify “It’s a jacket. There was no hidden message. After today’s important visit to Texas, I hope this isn’t what the media is going to choose to focus on.”

YES! That is absolutely what the media focused on!

If the first lady jets off on a goodwill mission, wearing a jacket literally stating that she doesn’t care, the media is going to go bonkers.

Of course, the story became all about Melania Trump’s jacket and the White House was left in damage control about its damage control mission.

Media is more than just messaging. It is more than just words. Location, backdrops, body language and even clothing matters.

Those non-verbal cues portray visual messages to your audience and should support your spoken message.

There’s plenty of research out there which says visuals are more important than words.

In this case, the message on Melania Trump’s jacket totally undermined the original intent.

Media messaging disasters happen.

People saying the wrong thing. Saying it in the wrong way. Standing in front of the wrong backdrop. Wearing the wrong clothes.

Most of the time it’s people who don’t understand the media who make these mistakes.

They front the media unprepared and miss the mark. Sometimes the personal and organisational reputation fallout is horrendous.

But when you’re the first lady of the United States, with a team of high powered media advisors, how does such a media disaster happen?

Media and communications professionals are paid to advise people on what to say and what to wear.

It’s almost impossible to comprehend that at least one of these very experienced media advisors, who walk the corridors of the White House, didn’t spot Melania Trump’s totally inappropriate jacket.

We saw the wife of the wealthy U.S. President, boarding the very expensive Air Force One, on a damage control mission visiting displaced immigrant children, wearing a jacket stating, ‘I really don’t care, do you?’

Perhaps the first lady simply didn’t think through her jacket choice. But any media officer, junior to executive, should have picked it up. Maybe they did but she didn’t listen.

What should have been a positive media event became a media train wreck. It completely undermined the event and the compassion message.

If you’re going to start dealing with the media, think about what you’re saying, how you’re saying it, where you’re saying it and what you’re wearing.

If you don’t know how to do that, find a competent media advisor who does and listen to their advice.

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Abbott's Background Mishap

This Photo Opportunity Should Have Been Rejected

By Corporate Media Services Abbott's Background Mishap

Politicians are a mobile lot, looking for a photo opportunity at every turn.

A media pack chasing you around a shopping centre might seem annoying to most of us but politicians generally love that sort of publicity.

In the world of politics photo opportunities are crucial.

The unfortunate downside is that journalists, camera people and photographers get bored.

For them it’s just another shopping centre, another walk about, another photo op.  So they’re always looking for something a little bit different.

At the same time, politician’s media teams are always on the lookout for danger.

The big danger that everyone tries to avoid is a political photo in front of an ‘exit’ sign.

But let’s be fair dinkum about this, you can’t avoid every potential problem –  sometimes they just slip through.

A photo of Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, standing in front of the discount store ‘The Reject Shop’, is a perfect example of a politician being in the wrong spot at the wrong time.

Really, it could be argued that a photo like this is not in the public interest or anybody’s interest. Why would you publish it? Who cares?

But if an opportunity like this presents itself, there’s not a photographer or camera person who is going to knock it back. Especially when the debate about rejecting Mr Abbott seems endless.

If you’re outside the world of politics, situations like this one probably won’t be a major concern for you. But it’s an important reminder to be in control of your background if you’re appearing in the media.

Photographers and camera people generally aren’t trying to stitch you up visually but they are under a lot of pressure to deliver interesting photos and vision.

So before you are photographed or filmed, look over your shoulder and make sure you’re happy with the background.

If there is anything about the background that you’re not happy with, speak up.

Simply tell them that this isn’t working for you and then suggest a different location.

You don’t want the photo or vision to take away from your message – you certainly don’t want to send the wrong message.

Photo opportunities are great but be aware of what’s in the background.


Journalist in firing line

Journalism – A Dangerous Job

Source: World Association of Newspapers

By Doug Weller

It’s easy to forget journalism can be a very dangerous job.

The dangers are many for journalists who cover conflicts in various international hotspots.

A shocking example is that of freelance war correspondent, James Foley, who was abducted and beheaded.

Freelance cameraperson, Ashoka Mukpu, is another example having contracted and survived the deadly ebola virus while covering the health crisis in Liberia.

Journalists and other members of the media don’t necessarily need to work in international danger zones to be targets.

The Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris shows journalists simply working at their desk in a city office can be in jeopardy.

Journalists and other media representatives can be criticised. Some of these criticisms may be justified if the reporting is inaccurate or unethical.

But we should never forget that the crucial role of a free media in a free society is to observe and report without fear or favour.

Journalist danger stats

Source: Committee to Protect Journalists. W. Foo, 20/08/2014

The 2014 Walkley Awards chose ‘courage’ as its theme to acknowledge the dangers journalists face doing their job.

We need to keep in mind that these people are story tellers. We are all consumers of news who want to read, listen to and watch their stories.

The ABC has established a staff memorial which pays tribute to ABC staff members who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

Take a look and spare a thought for those in the media who have suffered or lost their lives and those who still risk their lives to bring us the news.

Further reading

Peter Greste – Walkely award winner for ‘Outstanding Contribution to Journalism’

Balibo Five Investigation Dropped by AFP

Ukraine Tops Journalist Death Toll This Year

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Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

Further Assistance

If you want to know more about engaging with the media, contact Corporate Media Services for more information about our media training programs and services. Make an email enquiry now… or call 1300 737 913

Thorpe Parkinson Tell All Interview

Ian Thorpe’s Strategic Outing

Thorpe Parkinson Tell All Interview
By Corporate Media Services

It must have taken a lot of guts for Olympic swimmer, Ian Thorpe, to out himself on international television.

Thorpe chose to be an athlete, not a celebrity. His talent brought him fame.

With fame comes a heavy price – a loss of privacy.

In this age of social media, 24 hour news cycles and audiences hungry for information about well-known people, that privacy can be more and more difficult to control.

The way Ian Thorpe chose to go public with his announcement was really interesting.

In the media trade it’s called being ‘strategic’.

There are two main ways you can make a major media announcement

The first way is to do it in one hit with a media conference and associated media release.

Media conferences allow you to announce your message or information to multiple journalists and media outlets at once.

The downside of this is that you may face questions coming from all directions and even a hostile media pack.

The second way to make a major media announcement is to be strategic. Pick one person or one media outlet.

That’s exactly what Ian Thorpe did.

For Thorpe’s announcement, he chose renowned interviewer, Michael Parkinson.

Parkinson is one of the best interviewers of our time. Not because of what he says, but because of what he doesn’t say.

Michael Parkinson is smart enough to let interesting people tell their story.

Parkinson’s style is to guide his guests and allow them to open up. It’s called letting the interview breathe.

That’s exactly what Ian Thorpe needed; an interviewer smart enough and skilled enough to allow him to tell his story.

Media around the world picked it up and it became big news.

But Ian Thorpe was able to set the agenda and no matter what tact various journalists and media outlets took. He’d had his say in a controlled environment.

If you’ve got something really big to announce, think about the way you want to proceed.

Would you prefer fronting up to a potentially difficult or hostile media conference? Or, do you want a much more controlled environment in a one-on-one interview situation?

Yes, you may need to participate in a range of different interviews after your one-on-one but at least you’ve had your say.


  • Think about the best way to make your announcement
  • Sometimes the one-on-one interview is a much better option than a media conference
  • Whether you choose a one-on-one interview or a media conference, make sure your messages are organised – know what you want to say and why
  • Be prepared


Information Only

Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

Further Assistance

If you want to know more about engaging with the media, contact Corporate Media Services for more information about our media training programs and services. Make an email enquiry now… or call 1300 737 913

Ricky Muir struggles

Ricky Muir Fights Back

Ricky Muir struggles
By Doug Weller – Corporate Media Services

Call me unusual if you like but I find politics really interesting.

I started covering politics when I was a cub reporter and I’ve been following politics ever since.

So forgive me for having another chop at the Ricky Muir/Mike Willesee interview, but the debate which has followed the airing of that exchange is an interesting lesson on dealing with media interactions and interviews.

Since my last blog on the topic, Motoring Enthusiast Party Senator, Ricky Muir, has come out fighting over his interview with Mike Willesee on Channel Seven’s ‘Sunday Night’ program.

In the interview Ricky Muir had trouble answering questions and required breaks to regain his composure and consult his advisors.

Mr Muir has now reportedly described the interview and his treatment as unethical.

Muir’s political advisor, former NSW independent MP and qualified media defamation lawyer, Peter Breen, wanted to lodge a formal complaint with the Australian Communications and Media Authority over Mr Muir’s treatment. Muir blocked that move saying “… I can either let this get me down or use it as initiative to get better.”

Mr Breen alleged that Channel Seven’s handling of the interview was unfair and allowed Mr Muir to become the focus of ridicule and contempt – “It contained the imputation that he wasn’t up to holding public office because he wasn’t a good media performer”, said Breen.

If you haven’t seen the interview make sure you find time to view it at least 2 or 3 times.

If you’re not involved in the media you might initially think that the interview is unfair or unethical.

But to describe the interview in that way is absolutely ridiculous.


If you’re going to interact with the media and put yourself forward to do media interviews, you need to have a basic understanding of the role of the free media in a democratic society.

In a nutshell, the role of free media is to observe and report.

You may think some media outlets do that badly but that’s another discussion.

Be very clear about this, journalists who work in mainstream media are not public relations or marketing practitioners. Nor are they involved in advertising -they are journalists.

It’s crucial that you understand that point.

Journalists have access to a wide range of powerful and influential people, including politicians. The vast majority of the population will never have access to these people.

So it’s up to journalists to interview these powerful people and deliver the results of those interviews to the public.

Ricky Muir is in an incredibly powerful position. He’s been elected to the Australian Senate.

He is now voting on laws which will have an impact on every Australian citizen and in some cases, citizens of other nations.

He is accountable to the Australian public.

The questions that Mike Willesee asked Ricky Muir were totally appropriate for someone in Muir’s position.

The interview was not a brash, hard hitting, ‘shock-jock’ style interview; Willesee was not aggressive, or pushy.

Experienced journalist and Executive Producer of Channel Seven’s 7 ‘Sunday Night’ program, Mark Llewellyn, has said that Mike Willesee was actually very kind to Ricky Muir.

Llewellyn is right. The questions were asked in a respectful and even gentle way.

In an interview with Crikey Llewellyn also said that Mr Muir’s assumption that parts of the interview would not get used were unfounded and there had been no deal for Mr Muir to go ‘off the record’.

“When did that kind of cosy deal become journalism — ‘the wink, wink, nudge, nudge, I’ll look after you if it all becomes a little too hard, possum’? What, by the way, are the ethics of censoring interviews and depriving audiences of the complete story? To in effect be part of that cosy club that shields politicians and keeps everyday Australians in the dark.” Llewellyn said.

When Ricky Muir had trouble answering the questions and took a break, this was broadcast as it should have been.

For Mike Willesee or anyone else involved in that interview to edit out any of that material in order to make Ricky Muir look better than he actually was would have been a disservice to the Australian people.

It was up to Ricky Muir and his advisors to ensure that he was adequately prepared before the interview.

As I said in my last blog on this issue, Ricky Muir should never have started his media exposure in a high profile television interview of this type.

He wasn’t ready for the questions and he wasn’t ready for the lights and cameras of a broadcast interview environment.

What Mike Willesee did was ask the questions and show the responses.


  •  Make sure that you’re prepared for any questions that may be asked of you in an interview, especially the obvious questions.
  •  If you’re not ready for a daunting media environment such as an intimidating studio style TV interview, don’t do it.
  •  If you ever stuff up in a media interview don’t kid yourself that the interviewer was unethical. Look at your performance and learn from any mistakes. Interesting to note that’s what Ricky Muir said he will do, so good on him for that.

Further Information

Mike Willesee Interview Was Unethical: Ricky Muir

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Further Assistance

If you would like further information about dealing with the media contact Corporate Media Services for more information or training.

Make an email enquiry now… or call 1300 737 9131300 737 913

Ricy Muir Interview enlarged

Ricky Muir – A Deer in the Headlights

Ricy Muir Interview enlarged
By Doug Weller – Corporate Media Services

Some people like doing media interviews. They are confident, love the limelight and are naturally good at it – but most are not.

The majority of people struggle with nerves and anxiety at the thought of being on TV, with cameras in their face, answering questions.

The problem is fear. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of stuffing up. Fear of looking like an idiot in front of thousands, or potentially millions of people.

Most people can easily give you an opinion on anything. However, shove a microphone under their nose and even the most competent and accomplished speaker can go to water.

Many media spokespeople loathe conducting a media interview. I’ve met some who become physically ill at the thought of doing one.

Like anything, the more you practise, the better you get. So when it comes to improving your public speaking and media confidence, start small and gradually build up.

The Ricky Muir and Mike Willesee Interview

The Australian Motoring Enthusiast Party’s Ricky Muir had managed to avoid media contact for months after being elected to the senate.

Mr Muir remained elusive as requests for media interviews were referred to others.

Unfortunately when media shy Ricky Muir finally fronted, he leapt straight into a national TV interview with Australian journalist, Mike Willesee. Click here to view interview

Watching that interview, it’s fair to say he is not an accomplished public speaker.

He stumbled over his words, struggled to answer questions, asked to take breaks and was clearly rattled by the entire process.

There were at least 2 cameras, one facing him and one behind him, TV lights all around and members of the TV crew to contend with.

This is a hot, uncomfortable and distracting environment. For some it can be claustrophobic. Wearing a suit jacket in that environment, as he was, can make it worse.

It looked like Ricky Muir was having what I have seen thousands of times in media training sessions, mind blanks.

He seemed so uncomfortable and nervous, the words just wouldn’t come out.

Why on earth Ricky Muir or his advisors would choose his media interview debut to be on TV with Mike Willisee, one of Australia’s most experienced journalist’s and commentators, is absolutely bewildering.

Mike Willesee has been critiscised for the way he conducted the interview but this is rubbish. He asked totally acceptable questions in a non aggressive way.

Building Media Experience

The way to deal with inexperienced media performers is to ease them into the media interview process.

Perhaps start with some low level newspaper interviews and then move to radio interviews over the phone. The more interviews you conduct, the more comfortable you feel.

Television interviews like the one Ricky Muir was subjected to are tough for even the most experienced media spokesperson.

The last thing you should do without any media experience is sit in front of a TV camera and answer difficult questions.

I would never suggest anybody with limited media skills front up to something like that.

You work your way up to TV interviews, you certainly don’t start with them.


  • Some people are natural media performers, most are not.
  • Never go into a media interview unless you are feeling confident and empowered.
  • Don’t do media interviews until you’re completely prepared and know what you want to gain from the process.

Further Information

Mike Willesee responds to criticism over Ricky Muir Interview

Information Only

Any information presented on our website is of a general nature only and is not intended as a substitute for professional advice.

Further Assistance

If you would like further information about dealing with the media contact Corporate Media Services for more information or training.

Make an email enquiry now… or call 1300 737 913

Media Ratings

Media Ratings

People often forget that the media, including radio, is a business. This item explains how crucial ratings are for radio commentators. We should never forget the level of competition involved in the media and the impact it has on those working in the media industry. If you can’t watch the whole program, make sure you see the first two and half minutes.

By Doug Weller

See the program here:

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