(Thanks to my friend Tom Wilkins for sharing this video with me.)
In May The Washington Post’s Peter Holley wrote an article titled, “Meet the ‘Cajun John Wayne,’ the deputy whose meme-worthy videos terrify criminals.” It’s a profile of Lt. Clay Higgins, the spokesman for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office in Opelousas, Louisiana. Holley wrote that “Higgins may be the most irresistibly intimidating man in America.”
The video above is a perfect example of why Peter Holley wrote those words. It was posted yesterday (Thursday) and is the latest offering from Higgins for his regular Crimestoppers feature on KATC-TV. I can’t say I’ve ever seen a Crimestoppers or similar feature quite like this one on any other TV station.
Lt. Higgins comes across as very different than the public safety spokespeople we generally see on TV. While not as polished as some, people sure do love what he has to say. Yesterday’s video on the TV station’s Facebook site (not this version from YouTube) already has 1.2 million views. Higgins has a big following.
The reason these videos work so well is exactly because Higgins is different than most every other public information officer you’ve seen. He stands out because Clay Higgins is playing himself on TV. He’s real and he is very direct. Both things can be a real plus when trying to get your message across.
Being yourself and being real on TV can be a tough skill to master in the confines of being a spokesman (or chief) for a public safety agency. Clay Higgins has pulled it off.
The trick for you is not to go out in front of the cameras trying to be Clay Higgins. Instead, find ways to let the public see the real you. It may be as simple as channeling the way you would talk in a one-on-one conversation with a good friend.
Start with thinking about what you are saying. Are you speaking from some canned template you learned in a PIO 101 class that you’ve done hundreds of times before, or are you trying to tell an interesting story?
Rather than me trying to explain this, I should leave it to a pro. Here’s how Lt. Clay Higgins approached this very issue when he became the spokesman:
In December, Sheriff Bobby J. Guidroz asked Higgins to become the department spokesman. Higgins, who has no experience in communications, cautiously agreed and quickly found himself reading from a weekly Crime Stoppers script that he just couldn’t stomach.
It was too canned and unnatural, he told producers, reminding them that he’s not an actor. Tossing the script, Higgins listened to his gut, drawing on 17 years of law enforcement experience.
“I told my wife I was gonna speak the truth,” he told The Post. “That’s how I’ve done it on the street for many years with suspects, criminals and victims alike. People don’t want to hear political crap, they want to hear the truth.”