Dr. Deena, Trudeau and Trump
Dr. Deena Hinshaw in Alberta, Dr. Bonnie Henry in BC and Dr. Theresa Tam in Ottawa. We see them almost every day on TV bringing us the latest media scorecard on the COVID-19 pandemic.
They have become the media faces of the pandemic. We also get daily updates from Prime Minister Trudeau, US President Trump and others. Like most of you, I watch many of these media briefings.
This week's blog is on how they've performed in the media.
A New Alberta Hero
At the start of March, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw could have walked down any busy street in Alberta and 99% of the people walking by wouldn’t have recognized her. Now she’s one of Alberta’s most well-known people, thanks to her almost daily COVID-19 media updates.
Her work in the media has been well received. People like her, especially at a time like this. She’s calm and reassuring, doesn’t lose her cool and sticks to the facts. She shows empathy and certainly doesn’t get political.
I watch media conferences differently than most people. I’m far more critical because of my work in the media and as a media trainer for years. I think the media has been quite respectful towards Hinshaw, but that’s normal in these situations. They save the tough questions for the politicians.
A couple of weeks ago, I remarked on Twitter that Hinshaw shouldn’t start every answer with the word “so” followed by a short pause. I’ve took some criticism for that, but I stand by the comment. Yes, she’s very credible and perhaps starting almost every answer with “so” has almost become her signature now.
As a media trainer though, I teach people to drop anything that’s not needed off the start of a response and get to the point they want to make. That’s not to say Hinshaw isn’t doing a great job with the media because she is. I’ve also seen her find ways not to take the bait from some media questions and stick to her key messages, rather than expressing personal opinions. That’s smart. The last thing she needs is controversy.
I’m sure when she became the Chief Medical Officer of Health a little over a year ago, she never thought she would be in the position where she is today. She’s seen on live television on a daily basis, an average of 12,000 people watch her news conferences streamed on the internet and her Twitter followers have gone from zero to over 64,000 in just a few weeks.
The three most prominent people I’ve been seeing on television have been Hinshaw, her counterpart in BC, Dr. Bonnie Henry and the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada Dr. Theresa Tam. People have noted they’re all women, which really doesn’t surprise me. Last year I did media training for doctors in Calgary and was told there are more women in medical schools in Canada than men.
A Tale of Two Leaders
I also try to catch most of the daily news appearances by Justin Trudeau and Donald Trump. The contrast is amazing.
Trudeau comes out of Rideau Cottage every morning by himself and reads his scripted remarks. I sure wish he would drop the dramatic tone in his voice. It’s annoying. I realize this is a serious situation, but I wish he would talk to Canadians instead of reading to them in an overly serious tone of voice.
Then he takes questions and answers without passion and says very little. You can tell how little he says by the clips used by TV networks later in the day. Most come from his scripted remarks, which means even when he’s speaking instead of reading he says so little, it’s not worth using.
Trump is a different story. His marathon almost-daily news briefings are like a circus. Yesterday's media conference carried no real news, but managed to last an hour and a half. The media conferences included Vice President Mike Pence, disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s 79 by the way, Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, and a few others.
You can constantly watch the tug-of-war between Trump and his medical experts. They want the proper precautions taken, while Trump just wants to get the economy “ramped up” again. On Saturday, Birx made ominous comments about how she expects pandemic deaths to peak this coming weekend in the US and Trump jumped in right after she spoke to talk about how the economy needs to get going again, mentioning they had the “greatest economy in the world before all this started”. Trump knows the economy holds the key to his election success in just seven months from now.
I’ve enjoyed some of Ontario Premier Doug Ford's media work. He reads too much off the teleprompter and sometimes looks like he’s in a daze, but he was really good last week, especially when he called up his sign language interpreter to thank him for his work. Last Friday he attacked President Trump for the 3M stunt and passionately talked about how he’ll make sure Ontario (and Canada) are never left in the position of fighting for medical supplies and equipment again. I liked it.
Alberta’s Premier Jason Kenney has been very solid. I like the way he’s handled his media work during the pandemic, especially over the first couple of weeks.
I wish though he wouldn’t share the stage with Dr. Hinshaw. At times when I tune in for her live media briefings and I see Kenney walk to the podium first, I groan. I wish Kenney and his “Cabinet Minister of the Day” would hold their availability at a different time, allowing Hinshaw to have the stage to herself.
My media advice for everyone is, speak from the head and the heart, keep it short and talk to people instead of reading to them.
As always, your comments are appreciated.
New Online Media Training Video
During the pandemic, I'm increasing up my online media training work. My Online Media Coaching package is available to anyone who wants media training and today I'm debuting a new video I made about it. You can book a training session at this link.