broadcast, radio

Broadcast: always acknowledge the question

One of the techniques I teach in media training sessions is bridging from one subject to another, and this is particularly important in broadcast interviews. It’s a three-phase process, you acknowledge the question, you bridge to your chosen subject and continue – acknowledge, bridge, continue, a, b, c. Ideally you then return to the question otherwise you look like a particularly arrogant politician on a bad day.

I’m sometimes in media training sessions hosted by external companies, mainly in the PR field, and I hear them say things like “Don’t worry about what the journalist has asked, just ignore it and make the point.” In principle I can see why this would appeal. In practice it fails dismally because the broadcast nature of the interview shows that you’re ignoring people and being discourteous.

Here’s a well-known interview from BBC Radio 5. The background is that Blackberry had just released its Blackberry 10 smartphone. Broadcaster Nicky Campbell wants to know whether Blackberry had learned anything from the iPhone. It’s three minutes long, have a listen.

Awful, isn’t it? So what could he have done better?

Never forget “a” in a broadcast

OK, try replaying some of those quotes in your head, but this time add a little something. Add the “acknowledge” part of a, b, c.

This could be a phrase like:

“There will always be fresh competition in the market, but…”

“The market has grown with a lot of great new phones from a lot of companies. What we focus on is…”

Or even:

“Apple is a great company with great designs.”

So instead of “Blackberry is a unique proposition” in answer to “What have you learned from Apple?” you get something like “Apple is a great company with great designs. Blackberry, though, has a unique proposition…” and then continue.

So we get “Have you learned anything from the iPhone?” and instead of “Blackberry was one of the inventors of the smartphone market” you get “Good quality competition is always welcome. Blackberry was one of the inventors of the smartphone market…”

In a written interview this isn’t so terrible because nobody except the interviewer can hear you ignoring the question and putting your rehearsed platitudes out there instead. In broadcasting, as you can hear from the interview above, it’s perfectly audible.

I’m not saying Campbell would or should have let the guy off the hook after that. But the interviewee would have sounded less slippery.

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