The good the bad and the ugly part three
Lizzie Costelloe and Catherine Eastham have been providing their thoughts on some of the best and worst media interviews of last year and what we can learn from them. We’ve discussed man of the moment union leader Mick Lynch and his methods of successfully navigating tricky lines of questioning from experienced interviewers, to the self-serving press conference held by Gianni Infantino at the World Cup, when he clearly hadn’t read the room.

These interviews give us as students of media training some excellent pointers: did they get their intended messages across, what type of interviewer did they come up against and how well did they do?

We’ve seen the good and the bad, now for the ugly ….

Despite being in the Office of Prime Minister for just seven weeks, Liz Truss certainly topped the charts for one of the ugliest interviews we have seen all year. No one could have failed to wince at Beth Rigby’s Tory Conference interview for Sky News, which followed a series of car crash regional media interviews conducted on one gruelling day.

The best – in our view - of those was with BBC Radio Leeds where Rima Ahmed asked the PM if she has slept well.  Not quite getting the irony, Truss replied, “I think so, thank you.” A better, more empathetic response might have been, “No, I haven’t actually, as I have been working to support those who need it.”

If the regional interviews proved you should never – ever – underestimate a regional BBC reporter, the Sky News piece showed a masterclass of political interviewing.

Rigby is clear, concise and forthright with her questions, always armed with plenty of facts. Prime Minister Truss unfortunately lacked the ‘lightness of touch’ that we like to see; she always has clear messages but these are blunt cudgels from which she does not deviate.

A skilled interviewee would be able to deliver those key points in a number of different ways, rather than always repeating them numbingly parrot-fashion, sticking verbatim to the script. Truss also appeared inadequately briefed to prepare for more personal, human interest questions.   It wasn’t the biggest leap to have guessed she would be asked about her own mortgage arrangements, in a week when the crashing economy saw hundreds of mortgage products removed from the market.

Sometimes sticking to the script is not a bad approach, but it needs to have a flexibility to enable the interviewee to stretch and bend particularly when faced with an interviewer who is a master yogi. Truss came across as a rabbit in the headlights, lacking empathy and out of touch.

Getting the interview right, getting your key messages across and not feeling rail-roaded by an inquisitive journalist isn’t a dark art.  At Four, we assiduously prepare our clients and spokespeople with our 1-3-6-2 messaging framework to enable them to feel the confidence to go into any interview with the confidence to be more than good – and definitely not bad or ugly.

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