How not to behave during a media interview

Posted on 26th November 2018 by Lottie Buckley

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Going face to face (or phone to phone) with a journalist can understandably seem a little daunting, especially if it’s your first time. Putting yourself out there and making yourself available for comment is a powerful way to promote your business, and once you’ve done one interview, it’s likely that more requests will follow, helping you to become a thought leader in your area of expertise.

But before you get to that point, it can be helpful to get some media training under your belt so you’re prepared for whatever the journalist might throw at you. Using a few disastrous examples to illustrate our points, we take a look at how not to behave during a media interview.

Acknowledge the issue
If your business is being held accountable for a mistake, shortcoming or even a crisis, it’s incredibly important to react quickly to acknowledge the issue and, if and when appropriate, provide a sincere statement or apology, outlining how the situation is going to be addressed and rectified. Failure to do so can frustrate those affected further and give a negative portrayal of your business. Following the chemical oil spill in 2014 that affected nine countries, president of Freedom Industries, Gary Southern, commented, “It’s been an extremely long day, I’m having trouble talking at the moment. I would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up.”

Talk to the audience
On the other end of the scale is Tony Hayward, CEO of BP, who was possibly a little too emotional and remorseful in the aftermath of the undersea BP oil well explosion in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, claiming “I just want my life back.”Where an apology is owed, it’s vital to remember that’s not about you, it’s about those affected.

Balancing the scales
BBC Newsnight interviewed Ryanair boss, Michael O’Leary, to try and get to the bottom of his ‘macho and abrupt’ company culture. In response, O’Leary simply claims he is ‘misunderstood’.Unable to disprove the point, he could have tried to offer counteractive evidence to show what Ryanair are doing on the flip side to change perceptions.

Don’t lose it
Negative questions may come up during the interview, so it’s important to prepare for these and provide a calm and collected response. Peter Ward, chief executive of the British Dental Association, seems a little caught off guard when questioned over mercury release from amalgam fillings, and the interview takes a turn.As well as deflecting a question with, ‘lalalalalala’, Ward appears to lose his temper and refuse to continue with the interview.

Know your facts
As former leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett will have no doubt received some media training throughout her career, but during an interview on LBC radio, she was unable to recall the costings for her housing policy. Bennett answers, “As you can probably hear, I have a huge cold” and descends into coughing to seemingly buy some thinking time.Brushing up on your facts before an interview is vital.

Thankfully, not all media interviews need to be as painful as these! Skout can provide media training workshops to help you portray the right message and make a positive impact, whatever the interview might throw at you!


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