Chelsea Vs. Ivanka

By Susan Tomai, Founder, Oratorio Media and Presentation Training The two presidential nominee daughters handled tough questions quite differently with Cosmopolitan this week.

CNN wrote that “Ivanka Trump cut short an interview with Cosmopolitan published Wednesday after being asked about some of Donald Trump's past comments about childcare and maternity leave. Trump criticized the interviewer for having ‘a lot of negativity’ in her questions.

Trump had hoped to highlight the Republican presidential nominee's new childcare policy, which she helped craft and introduce this week.”

What a missed opportunity. Instead of handling the tough question and delivering some valuable messages about her father’s childcare policy, she threw the baby out with the bathwater.

In a separate interview with Cosmo, Chelsea Clinton did the opposite. “Although not happy with the expected comments about her father’s past indiscretions, the former first daughter said she was ‘unmoved by the subject,’ which Trump alluded to in the final moments of Monday's first presidential debate.

‘My reaction to that is just what my reaction has been kind of every time Trump has gone after my mom or my family, which is that it's a distraction from his inability to talk about what's actually at stake in this election and to offer concrete, comprehensive proposals,’ Clinton said.”

Chelsea, seasoned and media-savvy from a lifetime in the spotlight, knows how to anticipate the difficult questions and use her media opportunities to advance an agenda. Ivanka, not so much. Will the election hinge on what Ivanka or Chelsea says? Nah. But Ivanka’s petulance stands in stark contrast to Chelsea’s preparedness. In both cases, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Memo To Politicians: Get To The Point

giphyBy Susan Tomai, Founder, Oratorio

Last week we conducted media training for a candidate for Congress who felt it was important to “educate” his audiences. This is of course admirable – we certainly don’t want to dumb down the political discourse in this country any further. But for the purposes of the four-minute live television interview, candidates (and all spokespeople) can’t over-explain. They have to know how to tighten up their messages and avoid delivering a seminar, or they won’t be effective.

Now, this particular candidate is a very smart guy – he knows his issues inside and out and is passionate about them. But you should have seen his Communications Director tearing his hair out as the candidate repeatedly elaborated, digressed and went on tangents.

There’s a time and a place for thoughtful and detailed elaborations on policy points – it just isn’t the live TV interview. The more effective approach – one that fits the time constraints and the audience’s limited span – is to deliver key messages backed up by pithy evidence and stories. And with clock ticking down to Election Day, the time to start is now.

An Understandably Unsteady Moment

Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks during in a televised town hall meeting with Senator Bernie Sanders at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in Las Vegas on February 18, 2016. The town hall discussion focused on issues affecting Nevada and the Latino Community was held just two days before Nevadas First in the West presidential caucus on†Saturday, February 20, 2016.  / AFP / JOHN GURZINSKIJOHN GURZINSKI/AFP/Getty Images By Susan Tomai, Founder, Oratorio


My husband went to a Nats game last week. It was a day game and it was hot. He stood in the sun for more than an hour, waiting for our chronically late teenage son to arrive, and it did not end well.

Apparently my husband didn’t drink enough water. Heat exhaustion got him – all of a sudden he couldn’t hold his head up, everything went black and he was nauseated.   Sound familiar?

When Hilary went wobbly at the 9/11 memorial event,  I don’t think it was much different.  My husband and Mrs. Clinton are the same age. My husband is retired, he’s not campaigning all over the country and he doesn’t have pneumonia. He was at a baseball game in the middle of the day. So regardless of your political position, it might be a good idea to give Hilary a pass on this one and walk a mile in her heels.

Media Training: Found In Translation

By Susan Tomai 
This week Oratorio traveled to the Middle East once again, conducting a spokesperson media training program for a Gulf region government client. We’ve run training sessions in that fascinating part of the world more than a dozen times over the past four years, but this time was different: for the first time, the entire five-day training program was simultaneously translated from English into Arabic.
This was a novel experience, to say the least.
In all of our previous training sessions in the region, the participants had been top-level managers who spoke English well. This time, only a handful of the 30-plus government officials did. So every word we spoke about message discipline, interviewing skills, media relations and everything else we cover in our sessions went into our microphones and directly to the ears of a translator sitting in a windowed booth a few feet away, who then repeated the words into Arabic for the participants - and then did the same in reverse when it was the participants’ time to speak. This requires a lot of patience on the part of both the trainers and the participants, but once everyone got into the rhythm of it, everything worked well.
The lesson here is that even though cultures are different and the news media operate differently around the world, there are universal truths about what works in a media interview: staying on message, storytelling, branding the name of the organization, starting and finishing on a strong note, and so on. Whether the client is a government agency spreading a message about the importance of wearing seat belts, or a pharma company educating citizens about diabetes, the tools and the goals are much the same - no matter what language is spoken.

Tell Me A Story

141888-142934 By Susan Tomai 

While standing 10 feet from Bill Clinton as he stumped for Hillary in Alexandria last week, I was once again impressed by his easy mastery of the art of storytelling.

“Yesterday,” he said, “I was shopping for a new pair of jeans. I asked the young saleswoman about college. She said sometimes she goes to college, and sometimes she can’t, because she can’t always afford it. She told me how high her student loan is, and how hard it is to pay down.”

"I believe that an investment in college is like an investment in your home,” continued the former president. “You can change your mortgage rate - why not have the ability to refinance your college loan? After all, it’s a 50 year investment, and a home loan is usually 30.”

I’d be shocked if that wasn’t the first time that week he told that same  “jeans” story to underscore a campaign message.

As a former TV producer, I learned the importance of storytelling early on. We all remember stories better than we remember facts and statistics – science has proven that the brain simply works that way. Of course your story needs to send a message, tell folks what to do, how to feel, how to vote, etc. – but the most important aspect of good storytelling is including descriptive details that capture the reader or listener. That’s what Clinton did at that appearance last week – he brought us into that jeans store with that young woman.

So the next time you deliver a presentation or sit for a media interview, deliver an anecdote (a true story, nothing made-up) to underscore your key messages. Describe the time, the place, the feeling. Your audience will be engaged, and will more effectively remember what you want them to.