This tweet last week made me think. It accuses Manchester United footballer Danny Welbeck of giving a boring TV interview – ‘same old standard answers from years of media training’ – which may or may not have been fair comment in this particular instance, but which contains a wider truth. Anyone who comes across in an interview as being too ‘on-message’ runs a high risk of sending the audience to sleep, or even worse, annoying viewers or listeners by making it look as though they are continually avoiding the issue. Bad media trainers tell clients “don’t worry about the question, whatever he asks just keep saying this” – however I profoundly disagree with this approach, which gives the business a bad name. If you come over to the reporter or audience as someone who is defensive or trying to avoid answering questions, you are unlikely to impress them, whether you tick off your list of key messages or not. If you are simply bland, because you are trying so hard to be inoffensive or ‘positive’, you will just bore people into submission. They are unlikely to come back for more. Welbeck would have been better advised to prepare a few slightly livelier and less ‘safe’ responses.
Effective media training will make your interviews much better. Particularly with the right refreshers over a period of years, it will help you consistently find the best balance, so you do create the opportunities to say very clearly what you want to say, whether the right question comes up or not, but you do not squeeze all personality out. It is possible, with the right preparation and the right coaching, to be lively, interesting, and even a little controversial – without putting a very large foot in it. (More on this in The M-factor book)