It’s an oldie but a goodie: Former UK Labour Party leader Ed Miliband does an interview. For two-and-a-half minutes, he says the same thing over and over, despite the reporter’s best efforts. It is, sadly for Miliband, very entertaining…
The year before, Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, had pulled a similar trick, sticking to his buzzwords over and over, throughout a two-minute interview. Oh dear.
The Ed Miliband interview has racked up over 170,000 views on YouTube. I doubt it’s because the “strikes are wrong” or because “the government has acted in a reckless and provocative manner.”
It’s popular because it has – no doubt against the wishes of Miliband’s finely tuned PR handlers – become a joke.
The fact is, we know you have messages, we know there is spin, we know there’s often a team coming up with the best way to say everything but we don’t want to know!
The public wants to believe that a politician or business leader is across the subject and is not being trained in what they say. Put simply, the public wants to believe it can trust you.
These interviews did nothing for either politician’s image. In fact, they had a negative effect – and all when they were trying to get it right.
Both Miliband and Osborne were being too clever by half. They knew their pre-recorded interviews were intended for a news package (where, most likely, only one soundbite would be used) so they were trying to push the soundbite they wanted.
But it’s wasn’t their decision. It was the decision of the journalist doing the story.
There is actually some room for repetition in pre-recorded interviews. And you can ask to try a question again if it didn’t work out the first time. Just don’t give the same answer to every single question.
The biggest mistake Miliband and Osborne made was in assuming that the whole interview would never be shown. In the past, that would have certainly been the case but nowadays nothing is guaranteed. A news outlet may want to post the interview in its entirety to its website (as was the case with Osborne’s interview).
In Miliband’s case, it wasn’t altogether surprising that the interview ended up online – many people viewed his behavior as discourteous.
The interviewees were doing the right thing for their agenda – making sure that only their prepared message was given. They just didn’t go about it the right way. There should be a mutual respect between journalists and their subjects. Both know what the other wants and what the other does. Sure, relations can sometimes be strained but overall, it works – because both parties need each other.
Blame also can’t be laid entirely at the interviewee’s door – the reporters should also have pushed harder for a proper answer.
It is a journalist’s job to find out what the public wants to know. And you, as a company, want to be seen positively by the public. If you repeat the same words you sound self-serving and detached. No brand or company wants that.
Getting it right
The best way to make sure your message gets into a story is to repeat but repeat cleverly.
- There are lots of different ways to say the same thing. The journalist is trying to find a soundbite and you’re trying to give one. Just don’t make it glaringly obvious that you’re pushing your message. It’s a dance!
- It’s a good idea to prepare a number of different ways to get your message across.
- You can answer any question thrown at you then bridge back to your message/main theme.
- A good way to get around things is to use different facts or examples to say the same thing.