We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.

It is without a doubt that the media comes off looking very bad in Netflix’s film ‘Don’t Look Up’ by Adam McKay.

This is a film about how the media (and politicians — but we won’t go into that) effectively kill a story that is meant to save the world.

For those who haven’t seen it, scientist Dr. Randall (Leonardo DiCaprio) and astronomy Ph.D. student Kate Dibiasky (Jennifer Lawrence) discover a 9-kilometer-wide comet heading for earth, that will hit and kill all of mankind in approximately six months. They desperately try to convey this to the public – but are shot down at every point of their ‘communication’ journey.  

Whether it’s a President who refuses to accept the reality of the disaster (“You can’t tell people they have a 100% chance of dying!”), a media that refuses to take their concerns seriously (“Can it hit one house in particular… my ex-wife’s house?”, or a public who makes fun of them (especially Kate Dibiasky who is diagnosed as “bipolar” by the internet) – the two certainly face trials and tribulations as they try to communicate the near extinction of mankind.

Dr. Randall ends up forgetting his message and being ‘bought’ by advertisers and Dibiasky is silenced because she comes across as too alarmist – even though it’s understandable why she was so alarmist… The world was ending, and no one seemed to give two hoots.

The movie ends unlike most American movies – with a sad ending, one where the world is destroyed.

We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.

How could this ending have been avoided? What would have happened if they had gotten their message through? If they had been properly trained to deliver their message to the world?

Because surely, if you’re going to deliver a message as major as this, you’d want to do everything you can to get it right, right?

Now look, we know what you’re thinking. It looks like we’re sympathizing with the media here and trying to make them look less like the bad guy.

But we’re not. We’re simply acknowledging the reality that media is media, not a court of law. They are never going to be ‘fair’ as such – they are simply going to toe the line and tell the story that makes the most sense -to them, and their viewers/audiences.

Like it or not, the media are

  1. Opinionated / biased
  2. Pressured to get the “scoop” and meet deadlines
  3. Looking for help to write their stories
  4. People as well!

It is therefore super important to know how to approach the media and to understand and coordinate the media ecosystem – for the better.  Like it or not, we need the media, and it can be used as a force for good, if you know-how.

So how do we ensure that an important message – such as one that could save the world – lands?

Well, it’s not easy… at all! There are a lot of things that must be considered and practiced before you even put yourselves in front of a camera.

Let’s take a closer look.

The bit where we media train Kate Dibiasky

So frankly, we were quite unimpressed with Dr. Randall and how he got distracted and effectively joined the “dark side”.

But… Dibiasky? How unfairly was she treated in the movie – by everyone?! We genuinely think that if she had a few pointers and some coaching, she would have saved the world.

As the expert who found the comet and the one the comet is named after, we can see that she genuinely cared about getting the message out there, she just perhaps, didn’t go about it in the right way.

So what advice would we have given her? Here goes.

  1. Firstly, we’d say to her: “Ms. Dibiasky, we know that you are having a panic attack about the end of the world, it’s understandable, but it is essential that you remain calm. Your message is very important, and it needs to be heard, otherwise, the whole of mankind is going to die. But to be heard and so that action can be taken, it must be delivered in a clear, calm, and controlled manner. We recommend that you take a few moments before entering any discussion or interview about this comet to find your inner calm. Try regulating your breathing, taking some deep breaths, counting to 10, some meditation, or even going into nature before the interview.”
  2. We would then remind her of the importance of practicing and rehearsing what she’d like to say, in front of a mirror or in front of a camera (her own). The most important thing is to not leave things until the last minute. And practice until you are happy with your delivery.
  3. Get someone to pretend to be a reporter and ask you some tough questions. See how you do and practice answering them until you are happy with your delivery. Use the tough questions to correct misconceptions, inconsistencies, and distorted facts. Remember you are the expert, not the public, so you know exactly what’s going on.
  4. Make sure you know your key message very well. What do you want to say? How can you say it most effectively? Are there any sound bites or power quotes that you can use to convey your point? Prepare them and commit them to memory!
  5. Media may have a different agenda than you, so they may not direct questions to the topics or key messages you want to raise. Bridging is an efficient way to redirect a conversation. You can use transitions such as: “Exactly, but if there is one thing, we think we should remember from this is … “or, “One other way to look at this issue is to … “Or you could leverage a journalist’s question to build your answer, even if it’s not the main one:” You mentioned X and I think we could be expanding on its implications …. “
  6. Another bridge, and a great way to position yourself as a welcoming, collaborative figure, is to acknowledge a journalist’s specific interest and to thank him or her for giving you a tribune. By doing this, you create a situation of collaboration rather than conflict, and you have better leeway on where the conversation may go.
  7. Not everybody is a scientist and has the same capacity to understand scientific facts. Ahead of the interview, you may want to think of the facts that may be difficult for a non-scientific audience to grasp and, reframe them into references they may understand. For instance:
    1. Don’t say 9km wide but wider than 100 football fields
    2. Don’t say traveling at the speed of light, say over one million times faster than a charter plane.
  8. Flag your key messages. Help the interviewer/public remember by emphasizing what you think is important. For instance, say… “If listeners only remember one thing, it is this…”
  9. Despite being the truth (in the movie), there is truth in the statement that no one wants to know they have a 100% of dying from a comet. We would ask Ms. Dibiasky if there is a more reassuring way of communicating this. Such as: “We have a chance to save the world now, we must come together and act today.”

The bit where we re-write Kate Dibiasky’s media interview

We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.
We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.
We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.
We media trained Kate Dibiasky to re-write a better ending for her and ‘Don’t Look Up’.