Saying the wrong thing in front of the camera at a media interview can be exceedingly costly – just ask Gerald Ratner how his ‘total cr&p’ comment went down and you get an idea of how damaging a public gaffe can be.
Back in 1991, during an after-dinner speech to business leaders at the Royal Albert Hall, Ratner described how his company’s sherry decanter was cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long. It’s fair to say the joke backfired; Ratner lost his 2,500 shops and his fortune.
More recently, the Sainsbury’s CEO was forced to apologise after being filmed singing ‘We’re in the Money’ prior to an ITV News interview about the proposed merger between the supermarket giant and Asda. Interestingly, the merger never happened amid, among other things, fears that prices would rise.
And who could forget Dianne Abbott’s toe-curlingly bad public display of mathematical skills when asked in a recent media interview on LBC about how much Labour’s plans to put 10,000 more bobbies on the beat might cost. Who knew they were only £30! What a bargain.
Very occasionally, a ‘bad’ media interview can be quite endearing – such as when Professor Robert Kelly was interrupted by his two children just as he was getting into his stride on South Korea, live on the BBC. Mostly, though, there’s going to be some red faces and more often than not a king size helping of humble pie attached – especially today, when your on-camera hiccups are immortalised on YouTube.
Fortunately, though, there are some simple steps you can take to avoid joining the ranks of the truly cringeworthy. Here are our top tips on avoiding those dreaded ‘foot in mouth’ moments.
Know your subject
What are your key messages? Do you know them inside out and back to front? Can you anticipate what you might be asked – even though some questions might be difficult to answer? Particularly where funding might be up for discussion, for goodness’ sake ‘do the math’ before the interview starts instead of desperately trying to do long division in your head when you’re live on air.
Deliver with credibility
It’s not always all about what you say, but how you say it. Don’t look at the floor or appear distracted, deliver your message with confidence and conviction.
Stay in control
Say what you need to, to get your point across, but don’t be drawn into making rash statements and letting cats out of bags left, right and centre. It’s a media interview – not an interrogation!
If you’re unsure, why not consider booking some media training with an expert? The old adage that it can take years to build a reputation but seconds to destroy it is particularly true when in front of a camera – so it’s well worth the investment.