First Tactic to Use With a Hostile Audience: Acknowledge the Boos

On July 11, 2012, presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney spoke before an NAACP convention in Houston, the results of which have caused a media stir ever since. As could be expected, the NAACP audience gave Romney a lukewarm reception, but loudly booed him when he vowed to repeal President Obama’s Affordable Care Act. There was an awkward silence from Romney as he was being booed, as if he were trying to think of a response, but couldn’t. Romney later said he expected this kind of reaction, yet he appeared to be unprepared for it at the time. Which begs the question: Can an organizational leader or spokesperson who is faced with a difficult situation during a speech or interview—internally with employees or with the media—be taught effective, improvisational retorts?

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About Scott Van Camp

Scott Van Camp is editor of PR News, an executive-level, reader-supported publication that helps enhance the business impact of PR. Scott has a rich background in both journalism and PR/marketing. He has more than 15 years of experience as a writer/editor at various consumer and trade publications. Scott was with VNU Business Publications for five years, including stints as managing editor at IQ News and Technology Marketing magazines and senior editor at Brandweek. In the PR/marketing sphere, he has served as corporate communications manager at MarketBridge, a marketing and sales consultancy, and as editorial director for the Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council. While at the Council, Scott led several high-profile marketing research projects. He has also operated his own communications and media consulting firm, SVC Communications.

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