Take CARE to survive a hostile interview

Earlier this week we wrote about how Merlin Entertainments Chief Executive Officer Nick Varney handled a particularly challenging interview on Sky News.

The live interview with Kay Burley came a few days after the terrible accident at the Alton Towers resort, which left four people seriously injured.

We felt that Mr Varney handled the hostile interrogation with skill and an impressive calmness and the reaction on social media suggest we were not alone.

So let’s take a closer a look at what he did well.

Mr Varney came across as an accomplished performer which gave him a sense of authority. The boss was fronting his company’s crisis media management response and consequently appeared deeply involved in understanding what had gone so wrong on The Smiler roller coaster.

Interestingly, he used what we at Media First refer to in our media training courses as the CARE technique. This stands for Compassion, Action, Reassurance and Examples and the elements were clearly evident throughout the interview.

Take a look at his answer to Ms Burley’s very first question:

He continues to talk about being ‘deeply sorry’ and the company’s ‘deep regret’, while also revealing he had been in touch with the families of those most seriously hurt.

Mr Varney regularly refers to the further safety steps now being taken while at the same time providing reassurance that ‘stringent’ protocols had always been in place.

And these key themes continued even when Ms Burley was in full flow.

His answers were littered with examples. Examples of the steps that had been taken in response to the incident; examples of the company’s previously good safety record and, importantly, examples of the company’s concern and sorrow.

Varney’s performance won his company public sympathy –vital when you want crowds to continue to flock to your attractions.

So use CARE when your organisation responds to a crisis in the media glare and you may also survive a hostile interview.

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. To find out more about our highly practical Media Skills courses, contact us here.

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