PR Lessons from Kathie Lee Gifford and Martin Short

By Matter

We’ve often used this space to emphasize the importance of interview preparation, but Kathie Lee Gifford reminded us yesterday that journalists need to do their homework, too.

Actor Martin Short appeared on NBC’s TODAY show on May 31 to promote the film “Madagascar 3” when the always-chipper Gifford asked several questions about his (ongoing) love affair with his late wife Nancy Dolman. Sadly, Dolman died of ovarian cancer in 2010.

Viewers who were unaware of Dolman’s passing would have never known the difference, however, as Short responded almost as cheerfully. Despite a series of questions about how they keep their love alive, Short opted not to correct her and reacted with incredible charm and composure.

Here’s the video:

Though this was a terrible blunder, the lesson here is this: Preparation is important for the people on both sides of an interview and, even when you’ve done all that you can to ready yourself for the conversation, mistakes will happen. When there’s a misstep, the best thing you can do is take a breath and handle yourself as both Short – and Gifford – did.

Short responded to the presumably painful questions with poise and, ABC news reported, later informed Gifford of the mistake during a commercial break. She then apologized on the air and again on Twitter, stating: “I send my sincerest apologies to @MartinShort and his family. He handled situation w/enormous grace and kindness and I’m so grateful.” On a side note, @MartinShort is likely wondering what happened, since that is not the actor’s Twitter handle.

Short’s response to the gaffe? He told E! News: “I think that it’s live television and people make mistakes and there’s no ill will intended … And I think it’s nice to aspire to be that way.”

This was surely a horrifying experience for all involved, but this is live TV and anything can happen. None of us are perfect (though Martin Short seemed to have been, at least for a day). We must prepare for what we know is coming and brace for the unexpected. And when that curve ball’s coming at you, remember: You might not be on the TODAY show, but in this day and age, your actions and reactions are available for the whole world to see, read and hear.