By Tim Focas, Head of Capital Markets and media training at Aspectus
From inappropriate singing by a FTSE exec, to a high street retailer threatening a journalist, 2018 has been so jam packed with car crash interviews that a politician repeatedly failing to answer a question feels so mid-2000s.
At worst, arrogance, aggression and abruptness can quickly destroy personal and company reputations. At best, an interview disaster is a missed opportunity to communicate key messages and boost your brand profile. Here’s my take of this year’s most toe-curling interviews from the world of business, politics, sport and entertainment.
Sainsbury’s – try a new approach to media today!
I’m no Mariah Carey, although earlier in the year I made a diva demand for a mat underneath my chair. Anyway, you don’t have to be Mariah to work out that if you can’t sing for toffee, then it is best not to try while still mic’d up following a TV interview about a multi-billion-pound merger.
Clearly nobody told Sainsbury’s chief exec Mike Coupe – who caused reputational uproar in April after performing a rather monosyllabic rendition of “we’re in the money!” While Coupe may not have been able to contain his excitement over his £600,000 windfall, did it ever occur to him how staff worried about redundancy would react?
These days, the speed of social media means nothing can be left to chance. Prepare in order to protect your reputation! From what tie to wear to the nature of the audio equipment, no stone can afford to be left unturned.
King of the lie street!
What more can be said about Philip Green? Wherever and whatever the situation, threatening to splash a reporter with water is a no no!
A media savvy CEO rises above the bate and resists bad-mouthing, and certainly threatening reporters. It is vital, no matter how aggravating the reporter is, to remain calm at all times. However uncomfortable it may be, the first step is to acknowledge the question, before then linking the answer to a safer topic in order to regain control of the situation. This is bridging and it’s a technique anyone interviewing with the media needs to master.
Tory MP gets a drubbing from Madley
When it comes to politicians failing to answer a question, it is a case of take your pick. But one case that stands above the rest is Gavin Williamson vs Richard Madley on Good Morning Britain. The daytime TV veteran wasted little time going to work on the defence secretary by repeatedly asking if he regretted telling Russia to shut up when asked how the Kremlin should respond to the expulsion of 23 of its spies.
Williamson conformed to classic Westminster shpiel by doing everything but answer the question. Instead of trying to kill time by giving a long-winded description of the Sailsbury attack, Williamson should have at least acknowledged the question. At no stage did this happen and as a result, Williamson was left with egg on his face with Madley cutting him off.
Moaning Mourinho, moaning Mourinho!
Romelu Lukaku might be having hard time on the pitch, but its underscoring, not scoring, that is holding his manager back. Much like his team, Mourinho is all over the place when constantly hounded by a barrage of questions from reporters in this interview. If his negative demeanour and deadpan expression wasn’t bad enough, he constantly rises to the reporter’s bait. Keeping a cool head, regardless of the question, is paramount at every stage. As is reinforcing your key messages towards the end of an interview – a skill called underscoring. You can almost hear the sigh of shareholders every time Mourinho snaps back and fails to portray United positively.
A non-media star is born!
It may well be that Bradley Cooper’s aesthetics mean the same basic rules interview engagement don’t apply in this awkward interaction with Allison Hammond from This Morning. As frustrating as interviews like this can be at times, it is important not to forget that body language is key. Unfortunately, instead of using what is no doubt one of many press junkets to promote the key themes of the film, Cooper has a blank expression on his face throughout.