When Media Interviews Go Wrong

It’s your big moment. You’re launching your shiny new policy and have a series of media interviews lined up. If you’re Diane Abbott you forget your numbers and dig yourself a very big hole.

The Shadow Home Secretary provided a lesson in how NOT to handle a media interview this week.

Here’s five tips Diane Abbott’s recently appointed communications manager should have told her.

  1. Know your numbers. Know them inside out and backwards. Numbers will trip you up so make sure you’ve got them written down and don’t over complicate with fractions or percentages.
  2. If you make a mistake or get in a muddle, apologise and go back. Everyone makes mistakes but don’t do what Diane did and make the numbers up as you go along. Diane Abbott failed to correct her mistake and got in a huge muddle with numbers. From that point on every pause and deliberation came across as uncertainty.
  3. Be humble. If this is your seventh media interview in a row as it was for Abbott then don’t be afraid to say so. Explain your position, try and add some humour and rewind. Adding context gives you an opportunity to explain your mistake although be careful not to pass the buck. You’ll look even weaker!
  4. Don’t be afraid to ask the interviewer for a few seconds to gather your thoughts. The interviewer will fill the time until you are more composed. If Abbott had done this when she initially got the figure wrong, she could possibly have avoided the entire car crash interview.
  5. Don’t get aggressive with the interviewer. It’s the journalist’s job to ask questions and yours to answer them.


Image: Garry Knight via Flickr Creative Commons.

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Jane Whitham

Lexophile, philographer or just a lover of words? Jane has been fascinated by words ever since she realised, aged nine, that a well crafted letter of complaint to Heinz resulted in a stack of vouchers. She still loves beans too.

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