Ink for Ink’s Sake: How Crash Your Career

Brooke Boemio has the dubious honor of developing the Worst PR of the Year. Proudly, no doubt, the relatively newly-minted realtor served herself up to Time Magazine for the publication’s “Less Vegas” cover story about the decline and fall of Vegas.

“It’s an entire city of John Dillingers, feeling guiltless for stealing from the banks. Boemio is well aware that short selling isn’t ethical and is exacerbating Vegas’ economic problems. People, she believes, should make their payments, accept their paper losses and ride out the crash. “Guess what, a______s of Las Vegas. That’s what gambling is about. That’s what investing is about,” she says. “It’s greedy. But we’re all doing it. Because why not?” It’s very hard, she says, to suffer as the one honest person in a town of successful con artists.

“In fact, last year Boemio and her new husband did it themselves, paying $279,000 for a house nicer than their old one, which cost nearly twice as much. They stopped making payments on the old one as soon as they signed their new mortgage. “I make people happy all day with foreclosures. Now I want to be happy too,” she says. The new house, like so many she deals with, was trashed by the previous owners, who were angry at being foreclosed on. The doorknobs, hinges and copper wiring were stolen, as were the appliances and carpet. The owners even left their dogs behind. (Abandoned pets have become a huge problem for local shelters.) “You couldn’t walk into that house without holding your nose to keep you from vomiting,” Boemio says. She and her husband had to spend $7,000 on appliances and carpet to qualify for a Fannie Mae loan.”

No doubt Ms. Boemio was an “ink for ink’s sake” advocate, no doubt believing that being featured in Time would generate new business. Well, this “a bouncy, sweet, recently remarried 31-year-old mom,” as she’s described in the story now finds herself in a remarkable pickle, or rather an entire barrel of them, according to The Las Vegas Sun, which ran a follow up story: “Unflattering Time Magazine Story Puts Agent In Hot Water.”

As a result of Ms. Boemio’s “candor,” according to The Las Vegas Sun, the police are looking into “misdemeanor trespassing,” the State Real Estate Authorities are discerning what actions to pursue and her real estate firm, Coldwell Banker has “parted ways” with her. And, she could be facing some Federal action if she began a process with Fannie Mae.

Aside from Ms. Boemio’s now trainwreck of a career, there is another major ramifications:

Dealing with the media, on any level, is not for the amateur. It is not that the responsible media is seeking out the negative in stories, though arguably that perspective is “sexier” than others, but rather that good reporters know the kind of story that will compel a reader. Boemio’s comments spoke for themselves and required no reportorial enhancement or explanation: They simply danced off the writer’s keyboard to do their damage to this woman’s career – As they used to say “A slip of the lips sinks ships.”

As Stern And Company tells clients regularly: No matter how positive an article might be, there’s always going be a component that doesn’t sit well. The idea is to reduce those components to the minimum. And this is one of the primary values of using a strategic communications professional in all media “occasions.”

To this end, the following:

Dealing with the Media: Print Interviews

  • Ensure that you’ve done your homework in advance; and your PR firm has prepared a comprehensive briefing book that includes potential questions with suggested answers, and background on the interviewer.
  • Speak in personal terms: Rather than “the company,” or “we,” which can sound somewhat overbearing, use “I.”
  • Relax and build rapport.
  • While various corporate, competitive or regulatory issues may preclude answers to certain questions, all questions are fair game. And, treat those that seem naïve without sarcasm or condescension.
  • Don’t bluff. If there’s a question posed you can’t answer, say so and be brief about it.
  • Avoid rambling; be succinct and don’t pursue subjects in which you are not thoroughly briefed.
  • Tell the truth. Seems simple, but it often slides with evasiveness or “staying on message.” Journalists are generally perceptive and good at detecting evasion or sins of omission.
  • If you decline to answer a question, explain why.
  • If you promise information will be forthcoming, ensure that it is and with dispatch. Remember, reporters work on deadlines. And the convenience of “forgetting” to follow up is a bit like “the dog ate my homework.”
  • Facts drive an interview. Have them ready, with examples.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.” If you don’t want to see it in print, don’t say it, especially in an interview on a complex topic. Most reporters will honor an “off the record” stipulation, but there are some who may not and it simply isn’t worth taking the risk, even if the reporter agrees to a “not for attribution” caveat. If it’s shape, color or finesse with the media you may require, rely on the judgement of your PR firm.

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