If nothing else, Sarah Palin gives us many teachable moments. Let’s focus on her most recent interview which generously provides us with two lessons learned. She appeared on the TODAY show to discuss the Iowa Caucus as she recently endorsed Donald Trump for President. However, she quickly took issue with her interviewers when they strayed from the topic she wanted to discuss. You can watch her reaction and response HERE.
Earlier this year, Ms. Palin made her endorsement which coincided with her son being arrested that same day. When she took the podium to make her Trump endorsement, she used the dais to place blame on others for her son’s actions which resulted in his arrest. The TODAY show hosts asked Ms. Palin about these very statements.
Lesson number one: When you publicly introduce or elaborate on a subject, it is then fair game for the media to ask you about it. If you use your family members as talking points, you will be asked about them. If you publicly talk about a business or product, an employee, relationship, plans, projections or anything else, and the press is in attendance, you should be prepared for journalists to ask you about that very topic.
During her TODAY show interview, when asked about her son, Ms. Palin stated that she was “promised” that the hosts would only ask about the Caucus. She blamed them for getting off topic. She went on to accuse the media of not being honest and of lacking credibility. The host, Matt Lauer, clarified that no promises were made regarding any topics being off limits.
Lesson number two: Journalists are not obligated to make any promises about the topics they will discuss during an interview. They have a right to ask anything. Agreeing to an interview does not mean that you have to answer the question. It’s your decision. But you should establish ground rules directly with the journalist if you don’t want to discuss a topic. They may or may not agree. It’s their decision. But, even when ground rules are established, you should be prepared to address the difficult questions.
Handled correctly, Ms. Palin should have anticipated questions related to comments that she made. She could have used the opportunity to convey an articulate statement on a topic for which she obviously has passion. She could have won people over to advance her message but now it reinforces the message that she does not take the media seriously.