Breakdown of a clumsy media interview

Successful media interviews are as much about context as they are about content, agreed?
Sydney-based media trainer Geoffrey Stackhouse asked me for my take on a clumsy media interview (from some years back), asking for my analysis of what went wrong. Here’s my armchair punditry on this one:
Analysing the recently posted media interview/PR disaster, my observation is that it went wrong because of El Presidente’s emotional intelligence deficits. In short, his inability to listen effectively (perhaps through nerves or rote-based media training) simply derailed the interview.
In any conversational exchange, if you don’t listen to the person you’re speaking to – they’re going to get antsy; not listening is non-empathetic and breaks the communication exchange.
Now, the interviewee (and audience) was given the set-up early when the female anchor said “…talk about the forces facing the industry…”
More, the crux of the interview was emblazoned in a banner – Candy Commodity Crunch – crossing the screen. Instead of addressing these – even generally and non-controversially – the Prez thought it best to serve his own interests by ‘staying on message’. Conversationally, this is a bit like only being able to hear the sound of your own voice; and that’s conversational selfishness. From a public RELATION-AL view, it’s not a brownie point winner. Even given the chance to re-address the core issue, The Prez’s rote repetition of ‘Trident Extra Care’ and ‘We Innovate’ messages quickly began to frustrate his hosts.
On his repeating of these ‘bites’, they begin to sarcastically patronise him and – again – he failed to listen well and, therefore, missed their directional cues. Not having the emotional wherewithal to sense the way an interview is tracking – and then respond more appropriately – is a real problem in communication, and any media interview situation, and reflective of an old-school, rigid approach to media performance.
Media performance isn’t about 1-way projection (and if a media trainer only focuses on message relay, a client needs to re-evaluate who’s coaching them).Sure, messaging is important, but building trust, respect and – therefore – influence by LISTENING RESPONSIVELY is equally critical.
While some opine that the problem was that he was ‘content free’: But for me he was equally ‘context unaware’. All the content in the world will not save the day if you have not worked on those active listening skills (yes, even for media interviews) which allow you to relate to the topic at hand, and pick up the sentiment that’s being expressed as the exchange unfolds.

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