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Media Training: Staying on Message

By Suzanne Spurgeon  September 22, 2009

 I'd like to give a big thumbs up to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius for seizing an opportunity to educate the public on a very simple thing we can all do to help stop the spread of H1N1 (Swine Flu).  You may have seen the video of the HHS Secretary scolding a White House reporter for the improper way he sneezed during her briefing.  Poor Chuck Todd.  He sneezed into his hand instead of his elbow.  She could have ignored the sneeze, but instead Sebelius took advantage of the situation to educate the public.

Sure she got some laughs from the press corps.  But more importantly, people will remember that exchange between Sebelius and the reporter and may just sneeze the right way during flu season.  Talk about staying on message.  Some may think she was rude, but as a media coach, I believe Sebelius did the absolute right thing at the right time.  The story was picked up everywhere and if you hadn't heard about the "elbow sneeze" before the media briefing, you have now. 

And for anyone who responds to reporters' questions, the most important thing is to get your message out. 


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