Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Handling the Media'

Just answer the question!

Sometimes even the great Jeremy Paxman can’t get a straight answer!


How not to handle a media crisis!

After a major rail crash in the UK, the Chief Executive of Railtrack, agreed to appear on Newsnight – then backed out with a lame excuse.  The result was a far worse media crisis than he’d originally faced.  


The Week that Was – On Camera

The fine art of persuasion is never as tested as it is on television. Passionate advocates for causes, ideologies and organisations are placed in an alien environment and asked to form, change or reinforce our opinions in a few short minutes. The result  often has less to do with the worthiness of the message than the performance of the advocate.

If you want excellent examples of a) how not to do this and b) how to do it extremely well, you only have to look at a couple of examples from the box this week both, incidentally, delivered by academics:

On The Nation last weekend, Dr Rod Carr from the University of Canterbury put forward the notion that public funds should be directed towards education, particularly tertiary education, rather than supporting ‘the old,  the sick and the dying’.  As a long-term societal argument it may have intellectual merit – in the budget before last the government pumped $1.2 billion into the latter and only $300 million into education – but as delivered by Dr Carr it did not persuade me. Instead I was led inexorably towards the conclusion that both the man and his views were far too Prussian for my taste.  

Contrast this with the performance of Dr Phil Bishop, a senior teaching fellow and ‘frogologist’ from Otago University on Close Up. The plight of the endangered Archey’s Frog has never concerned me in the past. I’ve skipped over headlines and ignored stories. However, this charismatic champion of the tiny frog won me over completely, and I’ll be with him, sitting in front of the bulldozers, if mining in the Coromandel threatens their habitat.

The difference lay not in the merit of their arguments, it lay in their ability to persuade the viewer of that merit. One was cool, aloof and superior; one was charming, humorous and  quietly passionate. I care a great deal more about education than I do about frogs, but a good performer can change the way we feel and sometimes the right spokesperson on paper is altogether the wrong one on camera.


Media Tip: The Fine Art of Saying ‘No’

The media is wooing you, but you don’t want to give an interview. NO!!

Just how do you say ‘No’? Well, the first thing not to do is to make dishonest excuses. ‘Look, I’d love to come but my husband’s got the ‘flu and I can’t find a babysitter.’ The truth is that you’d hate to come, there’s nothing wrong with your husband and your youngest child is 17. So what are you going to do when they ring back 10 minutes later to say that they’ve employed a state registered nurse to look after the family while you’re out? Oh, what a tangled web we weave…

This sort of difficulty arises because most of us feel we have to justify our actions by giving reasons. We don’t. Assertive people realise that the best reason for not doing something is not wanting to do it. And that should be your approach when turning the reporter down. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: What are you going to ask me?



Journalists almost never tell you the questions they’re going to ask before you do an interview.  They certainly won’t supply you with a written list of questions.

They may possibly do so if the information they want is strictly non-contentious and informational. If, for example, a reporter is writing a feature on your new processing plant, and the purpose of the feature is simply to provide the audience with interesting facts and figures, she might well give a list of all the things she wanted to know and was going to ask.

But if there is widespread antagonism to the siting of your new plant, which is going to be a blot on the local landscape and probably pollute a nearby stream, the reporter would certainly not tell you her questions in advance. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: “No Comment”? No Way!

got-a-comment-sirWhat do you do if you’re caught on the hop and don’t want to answer a journalist’s question?  Most people panic and revert to blurting out, “No comment.”

“No comment” is a cliché, and it has the ring of evasion to it.  While you might think it’s a perfectly neutral way to avoid a media debate, or even an attributed quote, the public will interpret it quite differently.  

“Aha!” thinks the viewer/listener/reader. “There’s a character with something to hide!  Something shifty, something fishy, something I’d really, really like to know about.”

Alternatively, if a journalist puts a proposition and gets a “no comment” in reply, that’s frequently interpreted as tacit agreement: “You might very well think that, but I couldn’t possibly comment!”

Either way, you’ll do yourself no favours with this phrase.  There are lots of other ways of handling this: “I’m sorry, I can’t/won’t/am not prepared to talk to you about that,” “I think that’s a question you should put to …..  “You’re asking the wrong person, I’m afraid,” and you’ll probably be able to think up a dozen others.

Or you can just ignore the question, which is often the safest way.  If you answer, you can get yourself into a situation that’s hard to dig your way out of.  If you’re door-stopped and you don’t want to talk, just keep walking. If you think it’s going to happen, make sure you’re with someone else and deep in conversation.

And what if it happens in the middle of an interview?  It never should, if you’ve done your preparation properly, which may include laying down the ground rules for the interview.  If you haven’t and it does and you find yourself wriggling like a bug on a pin, you’ve only got yourself to blame.

More media tips


Media Tip: Down-the-line interviews – avoid them.

telly-setWhen you’re in one city and your interviewer is in another you may be asked to do a “down-the-line” interview. Not many people handle these well, because they pose very special difficulties. Genuine eye contact is impossible, since you are looking at a camera and not at the person you’re talking to. Even if you can see the interviewer in the lens, it’s remote, strange and impersonal.

Because of the technical problems of “feedback”, you have to wear an ear-piece rather like a hearing aid.  Earpieces, alas, are not one-size-fits-all. Unless they’re custom-made for you they’re uncomfortable, and they have a habit of falling out mid-interview. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Handle (and Not to Handle) Fair Go

Eleanor Black wanted to go to the Simon and Garfunkel concert at the Vector Arena in Auckland. According to the Ticketmaster ads, tickets would be on sale on line and on the phone from 9am on Friday, April 17. So Eleanor got onto her computer dead on nine only to discover that by 9.01 tickets for the seats she wanted were already sold out. She then tried for cheaper seats. Sold out! Undaunted, she decided to try the phone, but couldn’t get through at all. After 20 minutes she gave up.

But there was a mystery here. There was seating for 10,000 people at the Simon and Garfunkel concert in the Vector Arena, so how could the seats have sold out so quickly. Eleanor took her story to Fair Go. Read the rest of this entry »