- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2008

ST. PAUL, Minn. | Delegates to the Republican National Convention have been advised to emphasize their support for the McCain-Palin ticket and avoid direct attacks on Democratic nominee Barack Obama.

Consultant Terry Holt, of HDMK, a Washington D.C.-based public relations firm, was brought in Saturday to host a training session for Republican delegates on how to work with the news media.

The Sunday meeting had more than 100 participants, mostly state party chairmen and delegates designated as communication directors. The group discussed a form of Media Etiquette 101 and practiced their communication skills.

“Make a personal connection with the audience,” Mr. Holt said. “Focus on the positive … and avoid a situation that gets you drawn into a conflict.”

Mr. Holt cautioned against delegates being a “catalyst” for attacks on Mr. Obama, saying viewers would trust them more when it came to explaining why they back Mr. McCain.

To prepare for potential interviews, delegates were encouraged to search for news stories that focus their attention on issues they feel are important, whether they be matters of national security or low taxes.

Mr. Holt said it was not his role to “teach” people how to talk to the news media but to advise them how best to prepare for an interview.

“I can’t give them their answers,” Mr. Holt said. “They have to come up with their own answers.”

Most attendees at the Sunday session were women who said they were “ready to defend” Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

A few black delegates who attended asked about dealing with criticism of their political beliefs.

“To be an African-American Republican is to set yourself up for a lot of flak from the Democratic Party,” Mr. Holt said.

Convention attendees can feel overwhelmed by the news media presence at the convention, Mr. Holt said. He told the delegates they are outnumbered by media “four, five, even six to one.”

But it is in the delegates’ best interest to beef up their communication skills with reporters, he said. “If you’re not good, they’re going to find someone who is.”

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