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“Absolutely excruciating” interview highlights importance of media training

February 25, 2015 by Sophie Hunt

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We’re used to politicians getting criticised for avoiding questions but it is rare they simply can’t answer them, which is why yesterday’s LBC interview with Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett has attracted so much attention.

In what she has since described as an “absolutely excruciating” interview, Ms Bennett demonstrated why it is so important to prepare adequately for an interview and invest in media training.

Put on the spot about her party’s social housing policy, the party leader struggled to answer basic questions and appeared lost for words. She also suffered a coughing fit which she blamed on a “huge cold”. 

Apologising for her poor performance later in the day, she confessed to having had a “mind blank” – hardly an auspicious start to her party’s election campaign.

So, in a bid to help spokespeople avoid an embarrassing situation like this, here are three key tips for improving media interview performance:

  1. Do your homework: Think about what you want to achieve from the interview and your reason for doing it. Identify and prepare your key messages in advance and be ready to support them with examples.

  2. Use the bridging technique: Address the question you are being asked, then bridge away from it to take the interview in the direction you want it to go. Support your answers with key messages.

  3. Plan for the worse-case scenario: Anticipate potential ‘curve balls’ by thinking through likely questions and engineer opportunities to rehearse answers and practice interview techniques before going ‘live on air’.

We all have bad days, but with preparation and effective media training it should be possible to avoid an interview gaffe. Here’s hoping Ms Bennett will learn from her experience and I for one will be watching her future performance with interest.

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