Media training: bridge, but do it gently

In my media training sessions I often tell people they need to “bridge” – get from an uncomfortable topic to one with which they are more comfortable. I stand by this but would urge people to do it gently. Here’s an example of how not to do it – do click on the video, it’s awful:

The guy gets it wrong in so many ways. He’s known to be anti-equal marriage and they’ve just had a vote. OK, he takes a particular view and he doesn’t want them to focus on it.

His transition could have been reasonable. Something like “Of course things are likely to change but there are really pressing and life-threatening things happening out there”. Or “I appreciate there are strong views but we have to prioritise our energy and time. For example…”

Instead you get the screwed-up face and the complete personalisation of “But I ain’t going to spend any time on it…” and of course the sudden rather than smooth change of topic. This is an object lesson in how not to change the subject if you don’t want a TV studio full of people laughing at you. Bridge by all means, but do it carefully and tactfully.

Don’t assume rights you don’t have

A close cousin of the over-zealous bridge is the aggressive assumption of rights that don’t actually exist. My friend and colleague Kate Bevan was the first to highlight this painful piece to me this morning. Here a harmless interview is turned into a battleground after the event. A founder of a company assumes he has the right to veto an interview (which would have done his company nothing but good, from the look of it) and also to decide that something is off the record retrospectively.

The answer to all of which is no, no, no. The published piece will have been through the legal mill and passed as fit to put online – before you speak to a journalist or blogger, remember you’re likely to see your words coming back to you in print.

Do you need help talking to the media? I have been a journalist since 1989 and a media trainer since 2002. Email me by clicking here.

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