One on One with Gene Randall
As an award-winning network television journalist, Gene Randall gave viewers a front row experience of history-making events around the world, including the fall of the Berlin Wall, the liberation of Kuwait, the Exxon Valdez disaster and the campaigns of five U.S. presidents. Today, he leverages those decades of experience to help clients of Gene Randall Enterprises with media training, corporate video production, panel moderation and online interviewing.
On December 5, he tops the roster of impressive keynote speakers at the Professional Beauty Association’s first Executive Summit to be held at the Omni hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona. As he prepped on the professional beauty industry, he took a moment to share his professional history as well as his view on media and the beauty industry with SALON TODAY Editor Stacey Soble.
SALON TODAY: In the scope of your career, you covered some major international stories, which one affected you most personally?
Randall: “This is a close call. When I was in the Soviet Union, covering the Solidarity strikes that were happening in Poland for CNN, rarely has anything affected me more. I really learned the meaning of courage as strikers who had had enough of a communist system were rising up under Lech Walesa. Perhaps, even more striking, though, was the fall of the Berlin Wall. I had covered the Soviet Union for close to three years at height of the Cold War, and it was a sight I never thought I’d see in my lifetime. Watching as East Germans crossed into West Berlin just to see if it was really true is a something I’ll never forget. It was one of the few times in my career I found it hard to find the words to describe it, it was so monumental.”
ST: In covering the campaigns of five U.S. presidents, which one do you believe will be remembered best by history?
Randall: “I spent much of 1992 on the campaign trail with George H.W. Bush. While he campaigned on his ‘No New Taxes’ political slogan, it was naive and he grew to realize that being president is a lot different than campaigning to be president. It was a promise for which he paid a huge political price. Over time though, I believe he will be remembered for the way he handled the first Gulf Crisis, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. He put together a broad-based coalition that successfully kicked the Iraqis out of Kuwait and few would argue that his actions were unjust—in contrast to the war of choice that (his son) George W. would engage in later—a war for which we are still paying a very high price.”
ST: Which of today’s current events has the most potential to impact the future of American business?
Randall: All of the big current events affect business, but the biggest one—no matter the size of your business—has to be the state of the economy. Right now, the economic trends are headed in the right direction, but how much do they mean? Unemployment is below 6 percent, but average wages are stagnant. Why aren’t more people benefitting from the recovery? The recovery seems to be reserved for those who were doing well already.
ST: Today, your company specializes in media training for business executives. Why is it important for today’s business owners to be media savvy?
Randall: “Everyone has a right to get his or her message out in the most effective way. As a broadcast journalists I conducted hundreds of interviews with business people and was so often struck by how ill prepared they were for the challenge. Whether an interview is insightful or insipid, you have to be prepared for both. Too many executives aren’t comfortable outside the boardroom, where they are accustomed to leading. They need to be responsive and not let their attitude of the journalist color the interview. They need to take a strong stand with a soft approach. In my business model I help executives prepare by conducting a series of close-to-real-life interviews with them, then judging their effectiveness.”
ST: How is social media shaping the today’s media?
Randall: “It’s the classic two-edged sword—an unholy marriage between social news and gossip. Too many news stories are relying on social media to tell the story when the journalists haven’t corroborated the facts. Recently, CNN reported that the head of the Missouri Highway Patrol in Ferguson was a member of a gang because social media had mentioned he seemed to be using gang signals. Too many journalists are rushing to put stories before supporting what they say, then having to retract it later. Unfiltered information is like unfiltered water—it can be bad for you.”
ST: From the outside looking in, what’s your perception of the professional beauty industry?
Randall: It’s been an exciting assignment. The beauty industry has peculiar challenges because it so fragmented and so influenced by consumer demands and spending patterns. It’s an industry that really hasn’t figured out the best path of growth to take, and doesn’t really know how diversion and the potential of retail sales can impact growth. But in my research, I was really impressed with the philanthropic work the industry is doing, for example how it is trying to deal with the national epidemic of domestic abuse.
Gene Randall will moderate the PBA Executive Summit 2014, which also features generational expert Jane Buckingham; Steven Berlin Johnson, who will explore what environments foster good ideas; and Kline and Company’s Carrie Mellage, who will review the results from PBA’s Industry Research Study. For more information, visit probeauty.org/execs.