Spokesman shows the power of passion with attention-grabbing interview

Passion is an important quality for an effective media spokesperson.

It helps to draw the audience in, maintain their attention and keep them listening.

As we point out on our media training courses, the audience is also more likely to warm to a spokesperson who shows that passion and enthusiasm – a key part of getting them to support what you have to say.

And one interview that grabbed our attention recently was packed with passion.

It took place on Radio 4’s Today programme during an item about zoos, and their conservation work, being put at risk by a coronavirus funding crisis – only one zoo has so far been able to make a successful claim for financial help.

Andy Hall, from the British and Irish Association of Zoos & Aquariums, showed passion for the subject from the start of the interview. You can listen to it by clicking here at 1:22:40.

Asked about the importance of breeding programmes for rare animals, he said: “Conservation is at the heart of modern zoos. We have got species that are completely extinct in the world and only exist in zoos and aquariums and we have a responsibility to look after that and pass on nature to the next generation.”

And that passion kept coming.

Faced by a question about a £100m government rescue package for zoos, he said: “You can imagine we were delighted when the government said there would be £100m for zoos, but the fact is it is just not getting to them. The way the fund has been designed, means zoos need to be 12 weeks from bankruptcy before they can access these funds. And that is just not good enough for most zoos across the country. They are making decisions months, if not years in advance, about really endangered, specialist animals, providing top-quality homes for them and 12 weeks isn’t good enough.

That passion doesn’t just work on the radio, but it also creates powerful quotes - worth remembering for print interviews.

What I liked next was that Mr Hall built on that passion with an example that supported his point.

He said: “In normal times – before the coronavirus pandemic – it took one of our members nearly two years to rehome their elephant herd. It is going to be even harder now in Covid and that is why the government needs to make really minor changes in order to get this support to the zoos and spend the money where they need it.”

And it quickly became clear that those “minor changes” were the key message Mr Hall wanted to get across.

“The government can make really simple changes to this fund,” he said. “We want it opened up to all zoos. Scrap that 12-week eligibility criteria. Have a fund that is designed on revenue loss and operating costs and open it up to all zoos and aquariums across England. “

So, plenty of passion, examples and a clear message – that’s a lot of media training boxes ticked in this interview.

Is there anything else that can be learnt from it?

Well, there is. Two other key things stood out for me about this interview.

I particularly liked the conversational tone that was used throughout. It almost sounded like listening in on a chat between two friends.

And that is what media spokespeople should strive for. Sounding human makes them credible and it is far more likely those watching and listening will be able to follow what is being said.

As soon as you move away from that and sound scripted and rehearsed, it becomes far harder for the audience to warm to you and attention wanes.

Finally, the answers were a good length. They were clear and concise and easy to follow, despite discussing what could have been presented as a complicated issue. And that’s important because long, rambling answers are another quick way of losing the audience’s attention. But they were also not too short – which meant he retained an element of control to the interview.

If you listen to the interview, you may think that Mr Hall didn’t face any particularly challenging questions.

And there is some truth in that. But I think that was partly because the journalist realised Mr Hall was providing strong content. And that is what journalists ultimately look for.

They want to take stories forward, gain more detail and context and be able to inform and entertain their audiences.

And Mr Hall did all of that with his excellent interview performance.


About to face the media? Get your media interview homework off to the best start by downloading your copy of our free media interview preparation eBook.


Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 35 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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