surprise, media training

Press questions: be ready for the obvious

I’ve avoided discussion of the general election in the UK on this site for the most part – anyone who wants to see me ranting about it is welcome to check Facebook out. However, there have been a few lessons to learn in terms of communication.

One of these, as I’ve hinted in the the headline, is to be prepared for the obvious. So many politicians of so many different parties have missed this. Here is a four-leader, five-politician guide as to stuff that’s gone wrong – and in italics, where businesses can learn from them:

  • Jeremy Corbyn, Diane Abbott: Know your figures. If you’re going to launch a policy, know them even better. If you have a notebook and an ipad with you, have them set/bookmarked so that you’re able to find them very quickly indeed. That’s so basic it’s embarrassing. (If you’re leader you have a better excuse for not knowing all the figures offhand than if you’re shadowing a specific department, but only just). In business, a journalist is bound to ask you for some figures. Have them to hand and know what you’re prepared to announce and what you’re not. But not by much.
  • Theresa May: Make sure everyone is au fait with a policy, whether it’s the so-called dementia tax or other taxes. Over the weekend Theresa May said taxes might rise and Sir Michael Fallon, widely tipped as a new chancellor of the exchequer, said they wouldn’t. Get your story straight before going public – it’s not as if someone else surprised you by calling the election. In business, if your colleagues are briefing a differing viewpoint from that of the company it can look bad – try to be consistent.
  • Tim Farron: People in this country have always obsessed about sexuality. You’ve been known in the past to abstain from some votes on the subject and are also known to be a Christian, a faith that is rightly or wrongly perceived as anti-gay. You’re going to get asked about this. When someone asked whether you thought gay sex was a sin in the House of Commons you said “I do not”. When journalists ask you, though, you say “I’ve already answered that”. It looks slippery when “I do not”, even if you just repeat it, wouldn’t. Don’t worry about repeating an answer as long as it’s true. In business there are some issues that won’t go away – if you’ve done nothing, be prepared to repeat that message rather than show impatience with reporters – they might personally be asking for the first time even if you’ve heard it seven times that week.
  • Paul Nuttall: If you’re going onto a panel of leaders, remember everybody’s name. Write them down if you have to. Frankly, mate, your party’s on its knees already without telling us that the leader thinks everyone is called Natalie. In business, although you don’t have to repeat a journalist’s name every thirteen seconds like some interviewees do because they think it looks sincere, getting the name right at least once is positive.

Do you need help with your media engagement? I can help – call me on 07973 278780.

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