“I get a bit irritated when you say it’s not clear”. Labour’s shadow Brexit Minister @JennyChapman heroically tries to explain the party’s position on the single market…before getting a bit stuck. That’s clear then? 🤔 Full interview tonight on Around the House 10.45pm. pic.twitter.com/fcEKqDjkcg
— Paul Brand (@PaulBrandITV) January 16, 2018
One of my least favourite things about some political interviews is that the interviewee fails in their basic duty: making their opinion clear. The example above, broadcast yesterday, is a classic example.
The question was presumably about Labour’s view of Brexit and interviewer Paul Brand has pretty clearly added that he doesn’t think it’s very clear. Immediately the interviewee, Jenny Chapman MP, opens her mouth it starts to go downhill. Let’s take a further look.
Media training basics: be polite
The first thing she does is to say she gets irritated. I’ll be frank. If you’re one of my media training clients, the advice will be never, ever to show that you’re irritated, no matter how you feel. The job of the interviewer is to anticipate the questions his or her viewers, readers or listeners might have. If you’re saying you’re irritated with us, unless we’re asking particularly obtuse questions, you’re telling the readers you’re irritated with them too.
Also, this is an opportunity. In this instance, the question was about what the policy was all about. Brand might as well have said “Here’s some free space to talk about your policy. Speak now.”
It can’t be a surprise that Europe is coming up in political interviews. And yet, when offered an open goal, Chapman fudges it. For such an obvious question she really needed a couple of sentences, condensed, to offer. Instead she is tied in knots.
Not everybody is a stellar performer, reasonably enough, but I’ve had this in interviews when I ask what a company actually does. “Oh, well, a number of different things…” the answer sometimes comes, followed by an interminable explanation that’s longer than the actual interview itself.
Do yourself a favour. Whether in politics or in business, anticipate the obvious questions and memorise a few quick answers. In the instance above in particular, there’s plenty to discuss and it will get quite complex of its own accord; never mind not knowing your basic policy from the start.
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