23 May

The red light is on – even when it’s not!

Anyone who goes before a camera or a microphone should remember one thing – Gordon Brown and Gillian Duffy in the 2010 General Election campaign. It’s enough to make you come out in a cold sweat just thinking about it! How such an experienced politician with a whole host of advisers could make such a schoolboy error beggars belief, but it happened. When you are in the vicinity of cameras or microphones, even if you think they’re off, do not say anything you wouldn’t mind being broadcast.

There is also a recording doing the rounds of newsrooms of a politician sitting in a remote studio in Westminster making unmentionable noises before being interviewed – it’s never been broadcast but it doesn’t do reputations any favours. The danger of a remote studio is that it doesn’t feel like an interview situation, it’s likely you’ll be on your own so you think you can say or do what you like before or after the interview. It’s caught out a lot of people, so be careful, when you’re in that studio whether you think the camera or mic is live or not, behave as if you’re broadcasting to the nation.

TV and radio presenters and producers are by and large nice people – that’s their job. Part of what they do before they interview you is to put you at ease and make you feel comfortable, they’ll chat to you in the green room or before going on air: Remember, they’re journalists, nothing you say is off the record.

No one thinks they’ll make obvious mistakes – but they happen and when they do – they’re costly.

 

16 Apr

Facing up to bad news

Who’d have wanted to be Philip Clarke this morning? You wouldn’t have blamed him for crawling back under the duvet rather than face the media to defend another year of Tesco’s falling profits. To his credit he took the bull by the horns and did a pretty good job at putting a positive spin on a negative corporate story, and all this amid calls from some significant investors for him to step down.

Group profits down 6%, like for like sales down 1.4%, not a great position to be in, but Philip Clarke took the opportunity to send out his positive messages: Tesco is in the middle of significant change which will take 3 years, they are a strong business holding the middle market position, they anticipated change in the trading environment and are responding to it. He even managed to paint some colourful images of happy shoppers and smiling staff in some of the newly refurbished stores and to make the point that he “plans to stay and finish the job”.

So what did we take away from his interview? Shoppers would have been encouraged to know that Tesco shops are going to improve, that they’ll be able to use smartphones to shop and that Tesco plans to slash more prices. Investors weren’t put off as early trading saw the share price rise by 5% as the results weren’t as bad as forecast.

All in all it was worth it for Philip Clarke to get out of bed this morning, he realised you can’t hide from bad news in fact you need to control it and make the most of whatever media opportunity you’re given, having said that he’s clearly far from out of the woods yet.

 

20 Mar

A distraction, detracts

Back in November Ed Miliband was heavily pushing Labour’s childcare policy, as usual he did the round of broadcast interviews starting off with breakfast television.

That morning his hair looked particularly tousled and slightly damp, like he’d literally just left the shower (which he quite possibly had). Was this a new look he was going for? Was this a response to George Osborne’s new haircut? Did he think he could attract younger voters with his new hairstyle? Or had he simply missed his last hair appointment and got up late? All questions which I was mulling over as I watched and judging from the papers the next day the same thoughts were being had by several columnists.

However while we were thinking these slightly vacuous thoughts what we weren’t doing was listening to him and his party’s policy on childcare and therein lies the point of this post.

If you are appearing on camera make sure there is nothing about you which will distract the viewer. Make sure your tie is straight, your collar isn’t poking out, there isn’t a stray bit of hair sticking up, all these things will detract from your message. Vanity isn’t seen as a particularly ¬†attractive quality and some find it hard to suddenly concentrate on their appearance but if you’re appearing before a camera being confident in the way you look isn’t vanity it is necessity.

15 Mar

When a Good Morning isn’t Good

We would assume all senior politicians have fairly extensive media training and one thing they would be told is to be polite. Fairly obvious you would think but it can go too far and politeness can tip over in to smarminess. So be warned!

The Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt used to have a habit of addressing his interviewer with a lengthy and deliberate “Good morning/afternoon/evening” whether the interviewer had started the interview with a welcome or not. He also always mentioned the interviewer’s name, so you’d get a protracted “Good morning Bill, Good morning Susanna” when the interviewer had just asked him a direct question. In my opinion it made Mr Hunt a) look like he was picking up on the interviewer’s lack of politeness b) look like he was stalling and playing for time and c) come across as unctuous and ingratiating. All from six words at the start of the interview before he’d even got on to the subject he was there to talk about. Not a great start!

The best rule of thumb is if the interviewer welcomes you then return the greeting, quickly and succinctly because you want to show you’re eager to talk about the subject in hand. If they don’t welcome you and just ask you a direct question then just get on with the interview, you can show courtesy and politeness in many other ways during the interview, you don’t have to rely on the initial greeting to prove you’re a nice, well brought up person!

Oh and don’t use the interviewer’s name, it can look like you’re being overfamiliar and it’s a dangerous game to play because you run the risk of getting it wrong!

 

 

 

12 Feb

When an interviewer is like a naughty child!

The title of this post might be a little misleading. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you treat a journalist with anything but respect; underestimating your interviewer would be a dreadful mistake.

But as any parent knows the best way of getting a child out of a tantrum or strop is distraction and the same can be said of an interviewer who is bent on asking difficult questions that you don’t want to or can’t answer.

When a child get fixated on a toy or a sweet that they really want and they start to play up, screaming, crying, generally being badly behaved one technique most parents will use is to change the subject and find something to distract them. “Look over there, what’s that?”

The same technique can be used in an interview. If the journalist is taking you down a road you really don’t want to go down then acknowledge their question (you don’t have to answer it, just respond to it) and then distract them; move them on to a subject matter you’re comfortable with but one that is also interesting to the journalist. Take them back to one of the key messages you want to get across but make sure it’s well illustrated with a colourful example so the journalist doesn’t feel short changed, you may not have directly answered the question but you’ve given a really good, interesting response.

It was a successful transaction, you’re happy and the journalist is happy.

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