Media Trainers Weigh In on Biden vs. Ryan

Politics aside, there were plenty of points of differentiation in presentation and messaging in the Oct. 11 debate between Vice President Joe Biden and Congressman Paul Ryan.

For communications coach Karen Friedman of Karen Friedman Enterprises, Biden did what his boss should have done: He challenged and refuted his opponent’s points and spoke with passion and conviction. "Unlike the president, he came out swinging as opposed to backing into his answers," says Friedman. 

Andy Gilman, CEO of CommCore Consulting, says Joe Biden went beyond addressing President Obama's shortcomings in his Oct. 3 debate with Mitt Romney. "Biden did what he's always done well—he strongly defended the president," says Gilman. "Sometimes with surrogates, they do a better job of articulating their principal's convictions than the actual principals—and sometimes, that happens in the corporate world as well." 

Gilman says, however, that neither Biden nor Ryan was as successful in getting his points across as Romney had been. "It was a bit more of punch/counter-punch debate than the presidential debate," says Gilman. "It was harder for either candidate to do as Romney did because of their opponent's strong opposition—both candidates articulated their views and showed that there was a strong contrast between their positions. Biden, however, scored on some of the points that Obama decided not to." 

In the split-screen view on CNN, Biden was often seen rolling his eyes and smiling or laughing, as if Ryan's responses were outrageous and beyond belief—which was exactly his intent. Gilman says he once had a client who engaged in a debate with a consumer advocate on a morning talk show. Gilman instructed his client to, whenever he heard things that weren't true, shake his head to get the moderator to come back to him. "You have to do something to indicate to the public that those items aren't true," says Gilman

Ryan was also right on message and had no trouble challenging and contradicting Biden, says Friedman. "But he did not offer quite as many examples to humanize information and bring it home to the voter," says Friedman. "A number of his answers were also a little too long, which can dilute the message."

Friedman and Gilman agree that both candidates fared well, remaining composed and hitting their policy substance points, but Friedman says Biden was more animated, passionate and slightly better prepared. Overall, Biden controlled the debate, according to Friedman and Gilman. 

Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg

Andy Gilman and Karen Friedman will share "Media Training Do’s and Don'ts" at PR News' November 30 Media Relations Conference in Washington, D.C.  

Comments Off

Deals of the Week

Get $150 Off PR News' Big 4 Conference

Join PR News at the Hyatt Regency in San Francisco on August 6 for the Big 4 Conference, where expert communicators will share in-depth case studies from their Twitter, Snapchat, Facebook and Instagram strategies.

Use code “150” at checkout to save $150 on the regular rate.

Get $50 off PR News' Social Media Guidebook


This 11-chapter guidebook focuses on communicating in a mobile and social world, winning the attention of audiences, social media listening strategy and technology, social media measurement and so much more.

Use code “50off” at checkout.

Save $100 on a PR News Subscription



Let PR News become your weekly, go-to resource for the latest PR trends, case studies and tip sheets. Topics covered include visual storytelling, social media, measurement, crisis management and media relations.

Use code “SUBDEAL” at checkout.

Comments are closed.