Following Gordon Brown's big party conference speech on Tuesday, Ed Miliband's faltering nine minute Newsnight interview (fast forward to 12.10) did its cause no good at all. Normally an assured performer, Miliband was wrong-footed by Paxman from the start.
He did have a key message: 'the next election will be a choice between competing visions of change and in a world of scarce resources the Tories will make the wrong choices.' But it took him six minutes to get to his point by which time the audience surely had already made up its mind.
Not only did Miliband fail to take control of the interview but he lost sight of his audience. He became embroiled in a Q&A with Paxman, and made continual reference to ‘Jeremy'.
It can be argued that Miliband was simply playing a poor hand, but not to have anticipated the negative questions compounded his poor performance. He floundered on a number of questions because he had been badly briefed and he became sarcastic as he grew more frustrated.
Don't use the interviewer's name - it excludes the audience who perceives you as trying to cosy up to and influence the interviewer with such familiarity.
Think of an interview as a ‘presentation' of your point of view to the audience, not as a question and answer session with a journalist and prepare accordingly. Anticipate the negative questions and prepare your ‘bridges' away from them and back to your positive presentation.
Good week for Sun political editor George Pascoe-Watson
On his appointment as The Sun's political editor in 2006, the Guardian wrote: "Few jobs in journalism carry as much responsibility as political editor of the Sun". If you believe that newspapers can shape people's voting intentions then George is the man.
This week, every national newspaper and broadcaster covered the story that The Sun was switching political allegiance and endorsing the Conservatives for the next General Election. Everyone quoted George.
Print journalists often make poor broadcast commentators, such are the differences between the two mediums. But not George. As this clip from Sky News demonstrates, George has mastered the art of the pre-recorded soundbite.
He gets 30 seconds and three times he gets in his central message that Labour has ‘failed'. He makes it appear as though the judgment of The Sun should be the judgment of others and that the Sun anticipates and supports its readers. He addresses the audience saying that Labour has been "letting down Sun readers - and Sky News viewers".
The reason why different news outlets exist is because they serve different audiences. When talking to multiple outlets about the same issue, find a way to adapt and focus your message to each audience.
Meaningful soundbites are well prepared, concise and repeated to reinforce that this is your key message.
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