Politics & Government
6:00 am
Fri October 26, 2012

Politicians learn their lines

Listen to this story by Kyle Norris

Bob Kolt is using a wildly popular video clip to teach future politicians the importance of knowing their lines. It’s an excerpt from the 2007 Miss Teen USA competition. In the video, Miss South Carolina is asked why she thinks 1/5 of Americans can’t find the United States on a map.

Kolt is showing that classic beauty pageant clip to students in a media-training workshop. He tells them, “Know your lines and say your lines, in spite of the question that’s asked.” Kolt owns a PR-firm and teaches in the department of Advertising, Public Relations and Retailing at Michigan State University.

The students are taking part in Michigan State University’s Political Leadership Program where they study many topics, including campaigning, economic development, and policy work. As part of this media-training, Kolt stresses, “style is just as important as substance.”

Then Kolt explains a technique used in interviews that he calls “hooking.” He says, imagine a journalist asks a question about the environment. Kolt instructs the students to acknowledge the question’s importance then launch into the topic they want to focus on.

The reason Kolt teaches this method is so that his students have some control over what shows up on the evening news.

But later in the class, a young woman asks him about hooking. “Wouldn’t a smart reporter realize what you’re doing and re-ask the question?”

Kolt says if that happens, try the hooking technique again.

“The research shows the audience forgets the question. They really focus on what you have to say, particularly if you present it in a passionate, charismatic way.

But Kolt adds that a certain point, especially if it’s a long form interview, you will have to answer the original question.