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Regular readers of this media training blog will know we have occasionally pulled together lists of words and phrases which should be avoided in interviews.
Previous examples have included annoying and overused phrases like ‘deeply concerned’, ‘that’s a good question’ and ‘to be clear’.
The good news – or bad, depending on how you look at it – is we have now compiled a list of another nine phrases which media training experts such as ourselves recommend you avoid.
While this may seem like a light-hearted blog, using these phrases in interviews can make spokespeople sounded insincere, scripted and ambiguous.
So here are the latest entries to the interview naughty list:
‘Right’ or ‘correct’ (as an interjection) – This is something which has crept into media interviews in recent times. The journalist puts a question to the spokesperson which suggests some knowledge of the subject and they begin their response by saying ‘right’ or ‘correct’. It comes across as being ridiculously pompous and condescending, as if they are surprised by the journalist’s knowledge. It also makes interviews sound unnecessarily formal.
If you were talking to a friend and repeatedly used ‘right’ or 'correct’ in response to everything they say, you may not remain friends for much longer.
‘Cutting red tape’ – This is one of those generic phrases which are repeatedly used in media interviews but actually offers the audience very little in the way of insight or information. It’s far better to come to the interview with specific examples of what is being done to reduce bureaucracy than to talk in generalities.
‘Our thoughts are with…’ – If something has gone badly wrong and your organisation is in crisis media management mode, you need to show your audience your care. Unfortunately, this all-too-often used phrase does the exact opposite. It lacks sincerity and compassion and sounds like a hollow, token gesture.
If you want your customers to believe you genuinely are bothered by what has happened, come up with something meaningful. A response which is personal and sincere, in the spokesperson's own language, will be far more impactful.
‘Our message is’ – Yes, we know you want to get your message across in a media interview, but preceding it with this phrase does it with all the subtlety of a brick. It also makes the interview sound scripted and suggests the spokesperson is simply reciting a press release. A much better way to signpost to the audience you are about to say something would be to use a phrase like ‘it’s really important that your listeners…’. There’s no need to announce what your message is – if it is strong enough and you can back it up with examples, it will resonate.
‘I’m not sure but I would guess’ – This is a phrase which takes the spokesperson in to the dangerous world of speculation and can see them lose control of the interview. A media interview is no place for guessing. If you don’t know the answer to a particular question, be honest and tell the journalist or acknowledge the question and then use the media training technique bridging to steer the conversation back to what you want to discuss.
‘We put the customer at the centre of everything we do’ – While there is nothing wrong with the sentiment, in a media interview it just sounds like more meaningless corporate guff. Ironically, phrases such as this will actually alienate the audience - your customers - rather than reinforce how important they are to you.
A better approach is to provide some examples which show the extra lengths you go to for your customers. A useful media training technique is to remember to ‘show not tell’. By this we mean use examples to support or demonstrate your message as opposed to telling the audience what your message is.
‘How are you?’ - Frankly, the audience is not particularly interested in the welfare of the reporter and if every interviewee enquires about their well-being the news is going to become pretty tedious. But more importantly, interview time is short and precious and should not be wasted on unnecessary pleasantries. A simple ‘hello’ is enough.
‘Engage with / engagement’ - Another often used phrase which is very vague and seems to have come from the boardroom into media interviews. Instead of telling us you are going to ‘engage your customers’, tell us what you are actually doing. ‘Talking to people’ may not sound quite so fancy, but the audience will have a much clearer idea of what you are doing. Spokespeople should use everyday language in media interviews (without the swearing). Would you use a phrase like ‘engage’ if you were talking to a friend?
‘Can you call me back later?’ – Clearly this is something which is said before the interview, but I’m going to include it anyway. We are all busy, but asking a reporter to call you back later is a pretty certain way of ensuring you will miss the opportunity which a media interview creates. Journalists find it particularly frustrating if this happens when they are requesting an interview following a press release or pitch an organisation has put out.
Good quality media training can help spokespeople avoid making these mistakes by giving them the confidence to speak in a more relaxed and assured manner which is closer to how they may talk to friends or family.
If you are interested in our previous post on this subject you can find them here:
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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