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Media Skills Training

Brian Williams - Can He Make It Back?

The Brian Williams story just makes me sad. It was bad enough he was caught earlier this year embellishing his exploits as a newsman. And he didn’t do a good job of handling the firestorm that followed those revelations. Even his rehabilitation tour, featuring a less-than-forthcoming interview with Matt Lauer was less-than-satisfying. Now he’s a punch line for Donald Trump!

It’s possible to come back from a personal scandal. President Bill Clinton did it. The actor Robert Downey Jr. did it. It’s tricky, but we seem to love our celebrities and public figures who hit rock bottom, admit what they did, apologize, and devote themselves to making amends.

But we don’t root for all people who fall from great heights. Lance Armstrong and Alex Rodriguez come to mind.

Why the difference? I believe it’s directly related to perceived likeability before the downfall and whether or not their communications afterwards seems transparent and believable. I repeat my favorite mantra: Communications is Not a Soft Skill!

I don’t know if Brian Williams can make it back. It’s a long and winding road. So far, I’m not optimistic based on what Mr. Williams has said and done so far. As a former producer in TV news, I hope he can.

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