Add this to your media training – now

What is a website? Lots of things to lots of people but if you’re an interviewee it’s the best way to pre-arm yourself before an interview.

This morning, on Today on Radio 4 – yes, I listen to it lots – I overheard an interview between the rottweiler of a man John Humphrys and, it turned out, the British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Sherard Cooper-Coles. A short way into the piece, with Humphrys trying his best to put him off his stride, my ears pricked up because Cooper-Coles (or ‘Sir’ to his friends) suddenly said “You only to have to see your own website this morning where quoted on it is an Afghan villager on a superb feature on the BBC website saying the Taliban is the biggest threat to the future of Afghanistan.”

“That’s brilliant,” I thought. “He’s saying ‘this is what you’re broadcasting on your own site – and I’ve been prepared enough to read it. I’m using your own techniques against you.'” To my mind it seemed to phase Humphrys who could only grunt in response. No mean feat.

You can hear it for yourself, a minute and 30 seconds into the interview here.

I have never come across this before. I know interviewees can use all sorts of bridging and blocking techniques but this was different. Both the form and the function were pretty devastating. He managed to wrap it into his speaking so well, and it was highly effective in bringing absolutely relevant and up-to-date information to an interview as well as showing preparedness and initiative.

I told our Media Director about it this morning who also heard it, and we agreed it would make a great addition to any media training. The message: if you have a spare moment before an interview, check out the interviewer’s website/ blog/ forum/ chatroom. You might just find something to your advantage.

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6 thoughts on “Add this to your media training – now

  1. It was a fascinating interview – in fact, at the event I was hosting today, several people were discussing whether they fancied being the Ambassador to Afghanistan as a result.

  2. Pingback: Canuckflack / A good media experience depends on preparation

  3. I am not sure it was quite such a brilliant performance from Sir Sherrard. Sure, he’d done his homework but so should every interviewee. Humphrys, as ever, had also done his homework – for example, the high number of civilians killed by Nato forces. Sir S wriggled out of providing a figure on civilian casualties – “I’ve only been here six weeks”. When Humphrys made a comparison with Iraq, Sir S protested: “I can’t speak for Iraq….”. What? He’s been our ambassador in Saudi Arabia and now in Afghanistan, and he has no views on Iraq? Overall, simply a smooth Foreign Office performance…..

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