Joyce Meyer on Nightline: What She Did Well…And Not So Well
Media Coaching 101
On Tuesday, evangelist Joyce Meyer appeared on Nightline to promote her 80th new book and ministry. The interview followed Joyce on her crusade in North Carolina, and at her ministry’s St. Louis headquarters.
Nightline is a late-night investigative news format so it’s appropriate, and expected, that if they agree to interview Joyce to promote her new book or ministry that they are going to inquire the public’s foremost pressing question: fundraising and how JMM manages the ministry’s money.
When a reporter has an agenda that is contrary to yours, can you ‘win’ in a situation like this? (The answer is yes.) But did this interview ultimately help, or hurt, Joyce’s cause?
Joyce did do some things well – smiled frequently; used humor; showed her likability with her supporters by hugging and greeting them, and signing autographs; used the reporter’s name; showed emotion when discussing her past; and gave solid responses to a number of questions:
- “I don’t have anything to hide, why not tell the truth” – shows her candor
- In response to her past: “For me to stand here and say I’m of sound mind, I’m whole emotionally, I’ve been married to the same man for 44 years, I have four wonderful children, almost 10 grandchildren, and I’m being able to help people all over the world, God has done a lot for me.” – shows the validity of her family and ministry
- In response to her stealing from a former employer: “I was petrified Cynthia…I really felt like it was what God was prompting me to do…I needed to make that right.” – shows her humanness and respectability
- In response to her salary: “Most people doing what I’m doing, working at it as long as I have, would be way beyond that, so I am NOT robbing the ministry…” – shows sensibility to earn $250,000/year when your ministry brings in $100million+/year
But then the interview took a turn. The use of a private jet was mentioned. The ministry report and percentages of where dollars are spent was mentioned, and Joyce’s candor got the best of her: “To be honest with you Cynthia, I don’t even know what all of those percentages are,” was Joyce’s response to where they allocate their spending (not ideal that she doesn’t know and that she admits to not knowing on national television.) Her response to the use of a private jet, “why would it be OK for a business executive…” in light of recent scandalous use of private planes, sends a mixed message; most public frown on business executives (AIG/GM), congress and Universities using private planes, and certainly evangelists. Joyce also stated, “Is there no reward for anybody doing what I’m doing?” in response to her use of a private plane. I don’t fault Joyce, but I believe that the public would be asking themselves, “Isn’t the reward that you’re helping people, not flying around in a private jet?” As the interview concluded, Joyce’s body language became more defensive, and a slight frustration began to show.
Having media coached clients for years; I understand that Joyce was probably hit over and over with these questions until they wore her out. It’s common that answers are taken out of context (i.e. Cynthia: “…I can’t pay the rent but I’ll give it to Joyce, and we’ll see what happens, do you worry at all that this happens?” Joyce: “no, I don’t worry about that”); news stories edit answers to reflect the message they want heard.
How do you win in a situation like this? How do you keep your answers from getting taken out of context? By saying only what you want to see in print or hear on a television interview; no more, no less. You can’t control what the interviewer will say BUT you can control what you say. So focus on what you can control. If you anticipate questions about the ministry’s finances, know your distribution facts and percentages. Know that the interviewer is going to edit your answers if it’s a taped interview. So discipline yourself and say only the things you want said. Maybe a more appropriate response to the above question would have been, “we teach people that they are giving to God, not to Joyce, and He will meet their need.” Also, neverrepeat a reporter’s negative question with a negative response, “no, I don’t worry about that.” Instead, select a word from their question (i.e. pay), reword the question, and then answer the question (i.e. Cynthia: “…I can’t pay the rent but I’ll give it to Joyce, and we’ll see what happens, do you worry at all that this happens?” Possible Joyce response: “We want people to pay their rent and be responsible with their finances.”) And no matter what, never let them see you frustrated. It’s critical to keep your body language, tone of voice, and mannerisms calm and consistent. For more interview tips, sign up for our free media coaching whitepaper.
As messages are communicated faster virally, it’s vital that the message you want heard is preached.
What do you think: did Joyce do her ministry more harm or good by accommodating this interview?