McChrystal Clear: Basic Media Training

McChrystal: The Lessons

What lessons are there to take away?

1. As apparently General McChrystal didn’t or wouldn’t, remember when you are speaking to the press that you are speaking to the press. Obvious? Maybe not enough. If you are offered an interview opportunity that may seem attractive to your business efforts, do your homework. What is the publishing organ? Is it Time or is it That is, is it an organization which endeavors to be fair and objective and has a reputation to match? Or is it a shoot-from-the-hip medium which is only concerned about titillating its readers/viewers?
2. Then, who is the writer? Ask for published work if it’s available so that you may review the writer’s credentials and orientations. What you are doing is protecting yourself. But what you are also doing is impressing the writer that you did your own homework, and that you cared enough about the dialogue to familiarize yourself with the writer’s work.
3. And of this, remember: Writers are people, too, with egos. If you liked something the writer wrote, say so. It’s a great ice-breaker.
4. Then, in an interview setting, measure your words. You’re not going to lose your job if you say too little. But you might, like Stanley McChrystal, lose your job if you say too much. If you hear your mind caution you about a comment or revelation you might be about to make, think a couple of homely maxims: “Better safe than sorry.” And/or “When in doubt, leave it out.”


McChrystal by John Cass

Duncan Christy is a colleague of mine, he is an editor of great experience, and he was inspired to write this article about media training from his years of experience as a journalist and the McChrystal story. He kindly let me republish the article here on PR Communications Blog:


This exchange occurs very near the beginning of reporter Michael Hastings’ profile of General Stanley McChrystal in a recent issue of Rolling Stone:

“I’d rather have my ass kicked by a roomful of people than go out to this dinner,” McChrystal says.

He pauses a beat.

“Unfortunately,” he adds, “no one in this room could do it.”

With that, he’s out the door.

“Who’s he going to dinner with?” I ask one of his aides.

“Some French minister,” the aide tells me. “It’s fucking gay.”

And with that we are off to the races of one of the most colossal misfires in the history of a subject cooperating with an interview. A disaster that cost an otherwise admired career officer his career and was a huge embarrassment for the Obama administration, which had selected him specifically to lead a successful “surge” in embattled Afghanistan.

What happened? And, more to the point, how can you avoid this ever happening to you should you be a public person or a person speaking publically? Leer más “McChrystal Clear: Basic Media Training”