Brian Edwards Media

Posts Tagged 'Media tips'

Ed Miliband demonstrates the danger of ‘Key Messages’

‘I just can’t say often enough…’


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.  


Media Tip: When good microphones go bad.

It’s easy to forget you’re wearing a microphone – or even in range of one. The hazards of the radio mic are often exploited in comedies (think Leslie Nielson in Naked Gun), but they can create very real problems  as Gordon Brown demonstrates:


If you’re in a studio, it’s worth remembering that everything you say can be heard in the control room – and possibly all around the building on the ring main – so this is not the time for intimate confessions, salacious gossip or derogatory comments.

The best way to stay out of trouble in the presence of any microphone is to behave as if it is broadcasting, or at least recording. It probably is.


Media Tip: The Fear Factor


I’ve met many brave men and women in my life. People who have battled with pain with courage, handled crises with strength, face death with dignity. The bravest were those who were afraid, because that brings its own special battle.

In our work we deal almost daily with people who fight fear of quite a different kind – fear of the microphone, fear of the camera, fear of the studio.  We watch them go pale or mottled, struggle for breath, try to perform with hearts pounding so loudly they can barely hear. That fear is just as real – and sometimes so intense it’s paralysing.

Most people are nervous in front of the camera. In fact, most broadcasters will admit to occasional ‘nerves’. The difference is that broadcasters welcome them; that’s what gives them the edge, the heightened performance they want.

The trick is that they know how to control nerves and how to use them. Broadcasters, actors, public speakers  and performers can convert that energy into excitement, into a high that carries them through their performance and can leave them exhilarated at the end of it.

Most people who appear on camera can be taught how to do the same. Part of it is psychological, but the vital component is learning and practising the techniques that give you the physical control to beat that fear into submission.

I spend quite a lot of time working on these techniques with our clients: the psychological tricks, the exercises, the physical control. It’s not an overnight fix. Like any technique it requires practice. But it can be done, and reasonably quickly – by most people.

I say most people, because there are just a few who will never be able to face the media. Communications staff often recognise this, but have difficulty breaking the bad news to their bosses.  We don’t have any difficulty with this, because we know that for people with paralysing nerves it’s actually often the good news! They know they can never give a credible performance, and when we sympathise and confirm this, they are invariably relieved and delighted to appoint a more relaxed spokesperson.

Sometimes the Big Cheese is happy to be a mouse when it comes to the media.


Media Tip: The eyes have it.

glassesThe eyes have it on television.  They tell us what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, they make us like you, they make us trust you – or not. We need to see a person’s eyes  to make an assessment of them, and to make connection with them.

So – glasses on, glasses off? It’s a question we’re asked all the time. There’s no simple answer, but there are some guidelines:

  •  A pair of glasses is a barrier between you and the viewers. All glasses obscure your eyes to some extent.
  •  If you sometimes wear glasses, you’re probably better without them
  •  If you always wear glasses and you take them off, you’ll probably look a bit like a mole

Our general advice is, if you’re comfortable without them, take them off.  If you’re not, don’t.

That said, there are definitely specs that work and specs that don’t.  Many broadcasters who wear face furniture have special pairs for the studio.

  •  Transition lenses can darken under the studio lights. They’ll definitely go darker if you’re outside in daylight. They should be avoided for television.
  •  The best glasses for the screen have fine frames, and lenses large enough not to cut across the eye. Better still if the lenses are frameless.
  •  The new, fashionable glasses with small lenses and strong, dark frames look dreadful on telly. Even worse are the ones with tinted lenses. You might as well be wearing a carnival mask.
  • Sunnies may be cool – but they’re not cool when you’re being interviewed on television.

And the most important tip of all:

  •  If you’re wearing glasses on telly, make sure they’re sitting on your nose properly. If the top of the frame cuts across your eyes you’ll lose all your impact.


Media Tip: If you didn’t get a fair go…


If you’re unhappy about the treatment you’ve received from any branch of the media, you have a number of possible courses of action. Which course you take will depend on the seriousness of your complaint. 

If you feel you’ve been misquoted, quoted out of context, unfairly edited, misrepresented, mistreated, misled as to the intention, style or nature of the item, you should write to the immediate superior of the journalist or reporter who did the story. This will normally be the Chief Reporter in the case of a newspaper, the editor in the case of a magazine, or the Head of News and Current Affairs in the case of television and radio.  If that fails, approach the next person up the chain, and the next, and the next, until you reach the top. 

If you still get no satisfaction from the publication or broadcaster, you can take your complaint to the Press Council, in the case of newspapers and magazines, or the Broadcasting Standards Authority, in the case of radio and television programmes. 

The Press Council is a voluntary body supported by the industry and has no power to compel newspapers to do anything or to punish them for their misdeeds. However, its findings on a complaint will be taken very seriously by the publication concerned and will be  published by them whether favourable or unfavourable. 

The Broadcasting Standards Authority is a statutory body and has available to it a range of punishments for breaches of the Broadcasting Standards. These include compelling the broadcaster to broadcast an apology or retraction, imposing a fine on the broadcaster or, in extreme cases,  requiring it to be commercial free for a period.

You should consult a lawyer if you believe you’ve been defamed.

On the other hand, if you feel you were fairly treated, why not let the immediate superior of the interviewer or reporter know that as well. Journalists don’t get a lot of positive feedback either.

For more information here are the links to the BSA and NZ Press Council:

 “Television and Radio Complaints: A Guide for Viewers and Listeners” (PDF – 56k)


Media Tip: You Took the Words Right Out of My Mouth!

That's a quote, isn't it?When is a quote not a quote?  When is a quote something you didn’t say or even think in the first place? When you agree with a proposition or statement put to you by a journalist, that’s when.

This happens more regularly than you might think.  How? Let’s take a hypothetical case.

Your company, The Good Guys, is in the spotlight over a spat with one of your competitors. The media are gathering. As far as possible you stay away from them. You resolve to handle this crisis, in public at least, with calm, good humour and dignity.

You’ve managed to get through a print interview with considerable poise, and carefully steered away from invitations to criticise your competitors, The Super Guys.

The journalist is nothing if not sympathetic to your cause. You feel as though you’ve got a friend at court. When she says, “But their business practices are a bit dubious, aren’t they?” you can’t help but chuckle and you say that you don’t disagree with her. Read the rest of this entry »

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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: What Not to Wear.

pink-spotted-shirtA lot of time and angst can go into choosing what to wear for a television appearance.  Our basic advice is simple: your clothes should be appropriate for the occasion and the programme.  A three-piece suit will look plain silly on Country Calendar; shorts and gumboots won’t do you any favours on Close Up or Campbell Live.

The trend these days is for informality. Even John Campbell has given up wearing ties much of the time.  A suit or jacket with an open-neck shirt looks fine in most settings, unless you want to be very formal. On many programmes you can abandon the jacket.  Take a look at what your host is wearing. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: Audiences and Agendas

bus1Let’s assume that you’re the Chief Executive of The Big Blue Bus Company in a major metropolitan centre. You’ve been in negotiation with the union over a proposed new workplace contract. The negotiations have stalled. You’re offering a 2% wage increase and the union is demanding 5.7%. A driver work-to-rule has been in operation for two weeks, causing huge inconvenience to the public, and the union is threatening a full-scale strike. There’s talk of drivers in other centres coming out in sympathy.  You believe that the rank and file members of the union want to see an end to the disruption and would accept considerably less that the 5.7% increase. Every newspaper, radio and TV station wants to talk to you. 

But who do you want to talk to and what do you want to say? Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: You’ve got a point there!

obama-makes-a-concessionThe first thing we tell our clients, from politicians to pop stars, is: ‘Be straightforward, tell the truth – and admit your mistakes’.

In general no-one has too much of a problem with the first two principles. However, although pop stars seem to have turned it into an art form, admitting their mistakes is anathema to politicians (unless the mistakes were made by someone else!) and most people have some difficulty ‘fessing up’ that they were wrong. That’s a pity, because concession is a powerful weapon in the media. Read the rest of this entry »


Media Tip: Is there a Public Right to Know?


Journalists like to talk of the ‘public’s right to know’, but in most circumstances no such ‘right to know’ exists. In fact you are the one with a right – to conduct your personal and business affairs in privacy.

You forfeit that right if you break the law, if your behaviour invites public scandal or derision or if you have chosen celebrity.

The lawbreaker cannot expect to remain anonymous. Name suppression in criminal cases is anathema to the media and rightly so.

But you don’t have to break the law to forfeit your right to privacy. People who achieve public prominence, whether they seek it or not, are subject to greater media scrutiny than the average person. If, for example, you are the chief executive of a large company, or the executive director of a major organisation, or a prominent member of the clergy or the spokesperson for an influential lobby group, your words and deeds are likely to be of considerable interest to the media. This is particularly true if your words are at odds with  your deeds. Read the rest of this entry »