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We recently wrote about nine phrases we regularly hear in media interviews which should be avoided.
The problem was we soon identified some more equally annoying and frustrating expressions.
They are phrases and words spokespeople, particularly those who are inexperienced or who have not had recent media training, fall back on when they feel under-pressure or lose control of the interview.
And the problem is they cause audiences to switch over or turn off, ensuring the opportunity an interview presents is lost.
So, here are nine more phrases we think you should add to the banned list and remove from your interviews.
1 ‘Touch points’
PR guff which means very little, if anything, to most people and makes me want to scream. Essentially it is the interaction between a business and its customers. Spokespeople should leave this corporate jargon in the boardroom and concentrate on telling the audience what they actually mean.
2 ‘To be clear’
A new favourite of politicians who use it to start a sentence where they plan to completely ignore the reporter’s question or provide a totally ambiguous answer. Or both. An effective spokesperson should never need to use this phrase as all answers to questions posed in an interview will be clear and concise.
3 ‘At the end of the day’
A hugely annoying and pointless phrase which sports stars seem determined to shoehorn into as many responses as possible during interviews. And it now seems to be used by other spokespeople. It is an unnecessary verbal crutch which adds nothing to the interview and wastes valuable time. Cut it out and get to your messages earlier.
Often used at the start of a detailed response to a challenging question, as if to signify to the audience they are about to say something important. If anything ‘listen’ would be the correct word to use, but both should be avoided. Just get straight to what you want to say. If the interview is going well you will already have our attention.
5 ‘With all due respect’
A phrase used by spokespeople to try to show they think the journalist has asked the wrong question, when actually that question has made them uncomfortable and they don’t want to answer it. Also heard in studio debates between spokespeople of opposing views when it is often loosely translated as ‘I think your view is stupid’.
6 ‘I think’
This a very natural phrase to use and is something that we use in conversations in every day. But in a media interview it creates an unnecessary element of uncertainty. If you are dealing with a crisis, for example, does it sound better to say ‘we did everything possible’ or ‘I think we did everything possible’? Remove these two words and you will sound instantly more authoritative.
7 Repeating the negative phrases from the question
Reporters sometimes use negative phrases in their questions and very often the interviewee repeats those words even when they are defending themselves and rebutting the accusations. For example you might be asked: “This is very disappointing isn’t it? Aren’t you disappointed?” You answer: “I wouldn’t say it’s disappointing…” But you just have. The journalist’s negative language can now be attributed to you. Whether it’s broadcast or press, they have a neat soundbite with you using their negative phrase.
8 ‘The question you should be asking is…’:
A phrase sometimes used by a spokesperson who does not want to answer the question they have just been asked and desperately wants to move the conversation on to areas they want to talk about. But it sounds arrogant and is only likely to succeed in annoying the journalist – you are effectively telling them how to do their job. Avoid and take more control of interviews through bridging and signposting.
9 ‘You know’
The new ‘urm’ and a phrase that has moved from everyday conversations into media interviews. The spokesperson will make a point then add ‘you know’ before going on to continue with their answer. It is effectively a way of buying a little thinking time but it is hugely annoying for audiences.
We'd love to hear your views - let us know what phrases you think should be avoided in media interviews.
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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