Bad week for: John Holden, Institute for Occupational Safety & Health

I'm going to guess that when John Holden finished this interview he thought 'not as bad as it usually gets. I survived'.

Paxman: exasperated
Paxman: exasperated

But it is not enough for a spokesperson to go on air and think that because they 'didn't do a Ratner', the interview was fine. Don't bother if they are not going to make a positive impact on your media evaluation.

Everybody knocks the ‘health and safety' culture and Paxman adopted a somewhat leisurely interview style. John Holden took his lead from him (as did his ineffective opponent) instead of going in with a view to change audience perceptions about the work of his members. This is a prime example of how so many spokespeople fail to exploit the media opportunity.

Holden seemed happy just to appear jolly. He offered one tentative example, suggesting that the wording of health and safety legislation was not repressive. He claimed that people should focus on ‘proper risk assessment' rather than banning school children from playing conkers.

But essentially, he had no narrative about the benefits of health and safety activity. He did not counter what he knows the audience thinks about the issue. He offered no compelling imagery, anecdote, facts or meaningful examples of how organisations should go about health and safety effectively.

An opportunity to influence two million opinion-formers was wasted.

Key Lessons:

Unless you plan to shift metrics to enhance reputation or change perceptions when under attack, there's hardly any point undertaking a media interview.

With so much communications noise out there, getting cut-through in the media for your positive key messages is always a challenge. When the opportunity arises to secure coverage, poor spokespeople waste the PRO's hard work (and exasperate the journalist - hence Paxman's pay-off line).

Good week for Iain Cornish, CEO, Yorkshire Building Society


Despite some of the problems faced by the sector in the last 18 months, I suspect that most members of the public still harbour a pretty positive view of building societies, certainly when compared to the banks. Iain Cornish's performance won't have undermined that perception, despite a string of negative questions in this BBC Business Breakfast interview on Wednesday.

Cornish gets his key messages in right at the top - ‘we have strong reputations ... merger will strengthen us ... so we can continue to deliver an attractive, competitive, compelling alternative to the banking sector'. And those messages sit squarely with the audience's understanding of the current external environment and their expectations of building societies.

The interviewer only has time for four questions although the fourth question had four parts to it (sloppy journalism because it allows you to pick and choose which bit you want to answer and which to leave well alone!). Listen to how Cornish uses the three negative questions to repeat the positives of his top line message.

We speak on average at about three words per second. If you are told that you will be required for a three minute interview, then there will be time for around 500-600 words to be spoken by the interviewer and the interviewee - about twice the length of this ‘good week' column. In this interview, the journalist spoke for 45 seconds so not very much time for Cornish to deliver lots of information.

Key Lessons

When you are interviewed you want to make sure that your key message is communicated right at the top of the piece. You might never get asked the question that otherwise allows you to articulate it.

If you want to minimise the number of challenging questions that might be asked of you, keep on talking!



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