There’s normally something which sticks in your mind when you have just heard or seen an interview.
If it has gone well it will be the main message the spokesperson was hoping to get across.
But in many cases those messages will have been diluted by a range of largely useless and annoying phrases which effectively ruin the interview and the great opportunity it presents.
These phrases cause audiences to zone out, or worse, switch off completely. Some of them can also make an interview memorable for all the wrong reasons.
Often they are phrases a spokesperson will revert to when they feel nervous, get stuck or become uncomfortable with a particular line of questioning, or lose control of the interview.
Good quality media training can help prevent spokespeople make these mistakes by giving them the confidence to speak in a more relaxed and assured manner that is closer to how they might talk to friends or family. Here are nine phrases we think really must be avoided.
1. ‘Thanks for having me on the show / programme’: Broadcast interviews are generally very short and polite exchanges like this eat into the precious time you have to get your messages across. They also make for boring listening. Keep pleasantries to a simple ‘hello’.
2. ‘That’s a good question’: Journalists are paid to ask good questions. It’s their job and they certainly don’t need their egos massaged. Very occasional use is ok – although we suggest you change it to ‘that’s an interesting question’ - to allow for some thinking time. Otherwise this phrase should be avoided.
3. ‘Our / my message is’: You want to get your messages across in an interview, but signposting it in this way takes all subtlety out of the approach. It makes responses sound planned and rehearsed. It would sound more authentic by dropping the term ‘message’ so why not instead try - ‘if there’s one thing I’d like people to remember it’s…’
4. ‘Honestly’: Of course your spokesperson should be open and honest in an interview but adding the word ‘honestly’ into answers creates a needless air of suspicion, as if they are not being quite as honest as they should be.
5. ‘I’m glad you asked me that’: A phrase which has crept into increasing number of interviews in the past few years, particularly from politicians. It’s a phrase which is often used to buy some thinking time, but it can also make interviews appear scripted and rehearsed, when instead you really want your spokesperson to sound natural and authentic.
6. ‘As I said earlier’: This gives the reporter, and the audience, a clear indication the spokesperson is getting irritated with a particular line of questioning. And it means the journalist is more likely to keep probing. It also means that if the interview is recorded and only a small section is going to make the news package they will not be able to use this answer, even if it is the strongest response.
7. So: As strange as it sounds it has become increasingly popular for people to start responses to questions by saying ‘so’ (usually delivered with a lot of emphasis that mean ‘okay – here goes…’). . This seems to particularly happen when they are providing a detailed explanation. It sounds unnatural, obviously adds nothing to the response and could irritate the audience (or maybe it’s just me).
8. ‘We’re not here to discuss that’: If you lose control of the interview the journalist may move on to some subjects you were not expecting or are not comfortable answering. To stay in control and on your agenda you need to provide an answer and then bridge back to your messages. Ultimately it’s up to the journalist, their editor and any produces that decide the agenda of the interview. To stay in control you need to apply more subtle skills and techniques that are taught in media training rather than tell them you’re not discussing that subject.
9. No comment: A phrase which must be avoided at all costs. It certainly suggests you have something to hide and will encourage the reporter to pursue this particular line of questioning.
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. Click here to find out more about our highly practical Media Skills courses and presentation training.
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