It was almost laughable to watch a spokesperson for Insulate Britain, the M25-blocking group of environmental protesters, walking off ITV’s Good Morning Britain in a huff the other day. He had been challenged on why his own home wasn’t insulated, and whether the protests weren’t irresponsible and counter-productive. Indeed, presenter Richard Madeley did laugh at Liam Norton’s behaviour, marvelling at the hypocrisy, given that lack of insulation was the very issue the activists had chosen to focus their protests around, as well as the individual’s patronising tone and bizarre comparison with the actions of Winston Churchill.
Corporate and public sector spokespeople should not be smug however – the charge of hypocrisy is all too easy to level at all sorts of organisations. On any controversial topic, an apparent contradiction between words and deeds can – fairly or unfairly – hijack the focus of the interview as it did on this occasion, as well as greatly reducing the credibility of the person making the argument.
Just to take one example big companies therefore need to make sure they’re not just paying lip service to fashionable causes such as ESG (Environmental/Social/Governance factors). They need to be able to clearly demonstrate specific improvements they’ve made or steps they’ve taken, otherwise people will conclude that it’s just ‘greenwash’. I’ve been surprised while carrying out practice media training interviews how ineffective many executives are, at clearly explaining exactly what steps their organisations are taking to reduce carbon emissions/do better on Diversity and Inclusion/improve gender pay balance, or whatever. Instead they resort to waffle, cliché and jargon (“we’re committed to doing more on D&I”). This just adds to the impression companies are hypocritical, talking a lot but not ‘walking the walk’. Be able to give those practical examples to back up your theme – it will make all the difference. One other thing – unlike Mr Norton, don’t walk out if the interview becomes hostile. Even badly media-trained government ministers know they have to grin and bear it until the end of the interrogation, and attempt to deal with whatever mud the interviewer may throw at them.
More on our Media Training