The media are the collective mouthpiece from which the public receives information. While it's important to stand your ground when facing down a contested topic during an interview, its equally important not to anger or offend the interviewer or the media outlet he/she works for. That's basically rule no. 1 for media relations and training.
During a somewhat-heated interview with CNBC's Kelly Evans on Monday, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul broke that rule, shushing Evans and telling her to "calm down" while answering a question about a proposed repatriation tax holiday. (Skip to the 3:15 mark to see the exchange.) Evans laughed the awkward moment off, but clips of the interview and accusations of sexism quickly spread, especially on social media.
Paul is considered a potential candidate for president in 2016, but his latest headline-worthy soundbite won't help his cause. Presidential candidates come and go, but the media—and its collective memory—last forever. The uncomfortable moment on CNBC will undoubtedly color future coverage of Paul's run for the White House in 2016.
For media relations and training, Paul's CNBC moment provides a very simple lesson: "Never do this." Use this interview as Exhibit A when prepping top executives on what not to do when talking with the media.
Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene