The art of…interviews

Before I start there is a bit of a caveat emptor here – I’m writing about media interviews and media training but I’ve only ever conducted one session of media training and sat in on, at most, just four more.

I have, however, been reading the excellent The Media Interview blog and now consider myself expert enough to talk about it. So you can blame George Plumley.

As PR has grown from a line item to something of (hopefully) more strategic importance, so has the need to deliver good interview.

Unfortunately, the media’s idea of a good interview (lots of contraversial soundbites) and the PR department’s idea of a good interview (lots of “on-message”, relatively neutral soundbites) were pretty irreconcilable.

However, I think that in an era of the democratisation of media where more and more people are being called for interviews, and not just from the C-suite, the media and those who consume the media are bored with stale old rent a quotes.

No longer can interviewees use the trusted “bridging” technique of half answering questions before diverting them to safer ground. First Michael Howard (then UK Home Secretary) and then Paul Martin (former Canadian PM) have both gotten into some serious hot water over this.

The ‘trick’, if you can call it that, is to be charming, intelligent, knowledgable and funny so you can appeal to those watching while answering the questions and telling your own story at the same time.

Tough isn’t it!

Here’s an example of a good interview: Oasis’ Noel Gallagher interviewed by Exclaim Magazine on a number of issues from Lars Ulrich to French speaking Canadians and piracy. He’s completely honest, very funny, answers all the questions and comes over as an all round good bloke.

One of the best quotes is

What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?
See, I like pirates. That’d be a good occupation, wouldn’t it? I’d like to have been a pirate, if I wasn’t a rock star. Some might say pirates are earlier day rock stars. Of course, on the sea. Fook internet piracy. How boring’s that? I just don’t think I have an opinion on that. We’ll leave that to Lars Ulrich. Make an arse of yourself. Hey, if it’s out there for free and you can find it, then good for you. To be quite honest, between me and you, can I say this off the record? I’ve got enough money. I don’t need any more. Lars Ulrich has got enough money. He don’t need anymore. Keith Richards or Paul McCartney have got more money than sense — look at the way they dress. It’s blatantly evident. We’re well paid, us successful people.

On the other side of the coin, here’s someone else being honest and being himself but coming off as ignorant and not the sort of person you’d want to associate yourself with.

Worst quote is

“We have a problem in this country with political correctness and bringing women into the game is not the way to improve refereeing and officialdom.

“It is absolutely beyond belief. When do we reach a stage when all officials are women because then we are in trouble?

Who would you prefer to be seen as?

*UPDATE* I only found some audio of the Noel Gallgaher interview!  Click here for the interview and some nice live acoustic mash-ups of the brothers’ best songs. (Slide away is a personal favourite…)


7 Responses to The art of…interviews

  1. Leesa Barnes says:

    I’m a female referee and it’s laughable the number of times male coaches try to intimidate me. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, I just shake my head. However, since I have alot of power in my whistle, whever I tire of the tirade, I just throw him a quick technical foul and tower over him with my large frame. That usually does the trick

    Any woman in a male dominated field will be harassed, ridiculed, etc. etc. So, now that we’ve got that out of the way, I think women just have to get over it. Laugh at the ignorance like I do. Belinda Stronach provides us with a great example on how to do this.

  2. Like a good conversationalist, Ed, you’ve got me thinking about this issue in a new way. I hadn’t considered the role of the democratization of media in the outing of overly-trained bridge-happy interviewees. Not that it will stop such tactics, but now there are far more voices able to point out when the emperors have no clothes. And there are far more venues where open, honest interviewees can be heard.

    And, glad you’re enjoying my blog – blame away! 🙂

    BTW, I’m very jealous of your Third Tuesday events. If I get to TO I’ll stop by!

  3. Ed Lee says:

    George, thanks for stopping by.
    I think what I’m saying is that there are so many more outlets that need interviews, that so many more interviewees are needed. simple percentages would suggest that the better interviewees rise to the top and are asked ack. ergo people are exposed to more people who actually give good interview and therefore become less and less tolerant of those who give bad interview – such as those who are overly media trained and come over as bland and boring.

    Leesa – give them hell. just how gigantic are you? i think you were sitting down when we met and you mentioned your size a few times…


  4. […] PR and Social Media blogger, Ed Lee, makes a similar point about the future of media interviews: in an era of the democratisation of media where more and more people are being called for interviews, and not just from the C-suite, the media and those who consume the media are bored with stale old rent a quotes… […]

  5. Judy Gombita says:

    It’s funny how Oasis was “in the air’ this week. I think it was on Tuesday a.m. that John Derringer (The Mighty Q) was talking about violence in the music scene, and how it was only brothers in bands–he cited the Gallagher brothers and the Davies brothers–could punch one another in the face on stage (or otherwise) and get away with the bad behaviour.

    Apropos of nothing, it got me wondering how many “brother” bands there are out there (other than Gallaghers/Davies) who might qualify for this no-penalty face-punching. I asked my colleague/pal/music guru, Greg Marsh (manager, associate communications, at GEICO in Washington, DC). He’s given me permission to post his response:

    “Well, first of all, there are the Marsh brothers*. I believe the Black Crowes have two brothers in the band. The Kinks had the Davies brothers. The Allman Brothers used to have Greg and Duane, but Duane died young. The Doobie Brothers, on the other hand, didn’t have any brothers. Crowded House had the Finn brothers. Dire Straits originally had the Knopfler brothers, but I believe only Mark remained in the band after their first album. I’m not really familiar with the lineups of a lot of more current bands, though.”

    *The Marsh Brothers Band happens to be Greg’s band. I haven’t seen them perform live (although I do have a copy of their CD), but I don’t believe their stage show involves any face punching.

  6. Ed Lee says:

    there are also the fabulous bee gees, INXS and the allman brothers who were immortilised in “almost famous”

  7. […] good interview”, you can read the excellent The Media Interview blog and I humbly present to you my own thoughts on the subject, including one of the best quotes I’ve ever seen or […]

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