Let Palin Be Palin

September 26, 2008

A group of us gathered around a computer this morning to watch a YouTube clip of Sarah Palin’s interview with Katie Couric.  I hadn’t seen the segment, but by all accounts, it was not the most polished performance.  As marketers who frequently conduct media interview training for spokespeople, we wanted to set politics aside and make an honest assessment for ourselves. 

I have to say, it was one of the most uncomfortable things I’ve seen on TV news since college student Brian Collins conducted the worst sportscast in history – unintentionally propelling himself into internet infamy by stammering through highlights and awkwardly mixing in his catchphrase “Boom Goes the Dynamite!”  Palin, who also has done a few sportscasts in her day, didn’t fall to Collins’ level (and fortunately, she didn’t try to incorporate an awesome new catchphrase), but the stakes were obviously a bit higher and she couldn’t have been happy with the way things transpired. 

Normally, you’d blame the problem on her being unrehearsed and unprepared.  In this case, I suspect she was a little over-prepared on the specific key messages she hoped to deliver.  As a result, she lacked a genuine tone and seemed to have trouble thinking on her feet as she fumbled for her messages.  She also had a hard time making clean transitions back to her messages when pressed by follow-up questions from Couric.  By the end, I think she was flustered and lost her discipline all together. 

So, what’s the solution going forward?  She should forget about the script and speak in her own voice.  If she’s comfortable with the material, she’ll always appear more real, natural and confident talking in that manner.  It’s all about authenticity and relevance and she can only connect with people on that level by relaxing and being herself. She’s got some work to do to recover, but anything is possible.  Heck, Brian Collins recently got a full-time broadcasting position as a reporter for KXXV-TV in Waco.  Now that’s a comeback.