I’ve railed over the years that most prepared quotes have the stiffness of plywood.
A couple of years ago I randomly selected 50 news releases from the wire services and extracted the quotes for study. The following cross section of samples captures the essence:
- “We are very proud of the inauguration of our first 10 Czech stores. We are really confident that our customers will love our products and service.”
- “We are delighted to be able to offer our clients access to who we consider to be a leading clean energy infrastructure manager.”
- “We are very pleased to achieve this key milestone.”
- “I am proud to be part of organization with such a long and successful history.”
- “We are honored to receive this award.”
Everyone seems to be thrilled, delighted or proud. Like empty calories, these quotes have the nutritional value of soda pop. Conversational language is MIA.
Which brings us to last week and the professional golfer Matt Kuchar.
A quick stage setter—
Kuchar played in the Mayakoba Golf Classic where he hired a local caddie. He ended up winning the tournament and $1.3 million in prize money. Instead of paying the local caddie, David Ortiz, the customary 10 percent of his purse, Kuchar wrote a check for $5,000. He made matters worse by saying something to the effect that given Ortiz’s present salary, he should be thrilled with this chunk of change.
Ortiz wasn’t pleased. The story triggered a firestorm on talk radio and social media with everyone essentially coming to the same conclusion: Kuchar is a cheapskate who stiffed his caddie. The roasting caused Kuchar to rethink the situation, coughing up $50,000 for Mr. Ortiz and issuing the following the statement:
“This week, I made comments that were out of touch and insensitive, making a bad situation worse. They made it seem like I was marginalizing David Ortiz and his financial situation, which was not my intention. I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent. My entire Tour career, I have tried to show respect and positivity. In this situation, I have not lived up to those values or to the expectations I’ve set for myself. I let myself, my family, my partners and those close to me down, but I also let David down. I plan to call David tonight, something that is long overdue, to apologize for the situation he has been put in, and I have made sure he has received the full total that he has requested.
I never wanted to bring any negativity to the Mayakoba Golf Classic. I feel it is my duty to represent the tournament well, so I am making a donation back to the event, to be distributed to the many philanthropic causes working to positively impact the communities of Playa del Carmen and Cancún.
For my fans, as well as fans of the game, I want to apologize to you for not representing the values instilled in this incredible sport. Golf is a game where we call penalties on ourselves. I should have done that long ago and not let this situation escalate.”
That’s how you fall on your sword with prepared comments.
No gamesmanship with words (“I didn’t inhale”).
No attorney scrubbing and squeezing the humanity out of the comments.
The words sound like they come from an actual human being. Of course, I’m not part of Kuchar’s inner circle (heck, I’m not even part of his outer circle), so I can’t say with 100 percent certainty that he wrote these words himself. I do feel confident in saying that if he didn’t write the words, then he explained his feelings and perspective to someone who put pen to paper.
Let’s zero in on “feelings.” Kuchar opens up. This line early in the statement on the perceived disparaging of David Ortiz’s financial situation and how he felt about seeing his previous comments in the media goes a long way toward diffusing the hoopla.
I read them again and cringed. That is not who I am and not what I want to represent.
It doesn’t sound like spin.
It sounds like a guy who made a mistake, regrets it and did what he could to correct the situation and move on.
Note: President Obama mastered the prepared statement like this one on the passing of Harold Ramis.