The row (and broom) that swept away the message

You’ve just carried out a series of TV interviews.

What do you want the viewers to be talking about? That crucial message you were aiming to get across?

The way you reacted to the question you didn’t want to answer?

Or the unusual approach you took to ensure your interview would not be disturbed by anyone else in the house?

Unfortunately for one spokesperson, it was the last two options that grabbed all the attention.

Let’s start by looking at how he reacted to a subject shift during one of his appearances.

Dominic Raab had set out to discuss calls for a ceasefire in war-torn countries across the world so the vaccination programme could be rolled out further.

But just a couple of minutes into his interview with Good Morning Britain, host Kate Garraway moved the focus to the Government’s new travel policy and quarantine hotels.

And it led to a fiery exchange.

The presenter said: “People might be surprised that's what you want to talk about this morning and not something involving the global situation where something else that comes under your view is being seen as an absolute shambles. And I am talking, of course, about the situation with quarantine."

Mr Raab immediately called the host “cynical” and said that the timing was “not fair at all”.

And the interview then descended into an argument with the politician at one point snapping “Will you let me answer?”

He also went on to say: “Why don’t you pause and let me explain it. People get fed up with the media not allowing us to give honest answers."

Enthralling viewing for those watching, but the only thing they will have remembered from the interview was that it descended into an argument.

And that was reflected by the way other media reported on it.

COVID CLASH Kate Garraway and Dominic Raab in fiery clash over the Covid quarantine hotels ‘fiasco’ as he calls GMB host ‘cynical’ The Sun

Dominic Raab brands Kate Garraway 'cynical' as she criticises quarantine 'chaos' Mirror

'Just pause and let me answer!' Dominic Raab loses it at Kate Garraway on GMB live Express

If you’ve read this blog before or attended one of our face-to-face or remote media training courses, you’ll know we stress the importance of spokespeople maintaining their composure and not showing any frustration at questions.

Once you start criticising questions and journalists, you can be pretty sure that is all the audience will focus on.

Mr Raab’s main irritation seemed to be that he was being asked about things other than what he had set out to talk about.

But again, as we stress on our media training courses, this regularly happens and it is something spokespeople must prepare for.

It can happen early on in interviews as it did here – sometimes even the first question can be on a different topic to the expected one – or, more often, at the end, through ‘while you are here’ type questions.

Rather than complaining about the subject shift, Mr Raab should have used the bridging technique to answer the question and try to move the conversation back to the ceasefire call.

But Mr Raab’s fiery exchange was not the only distraction during his latest round of interviews.

He also found himself sharing the media spotlight with his broom.

During an interview with Sky News on the same morning, a broom could be seen resting upside against the door in the room he was broadcasting from.

And that brush – presumably used to prevent any family disturbances during his morning of interviews – quickly became the focus of social media speculation and jokes.

It also resulted in several newspaper articles:

Brush with stardom: Dominic Raab's broom call sweeps internet Guardian

Who is Dominic Raab’s broom keeping out? Or is it locking someone in…? Metro

Jokes about Dominic Raab’s broom sweep the internet The Times

The Guardian went further and asked the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office if “any symbolism was intended by the broom.”

Arguably the last time an interview background grabbed that much attention was when Yvette Amos went viral after appearing on BBC Wales with a sex toy on her bookcase.

It serves as a timely media training reminder, with the majority of interviews continuing to be carried out remotely, to check your background.

And once you have checked it, check it again. As the global pandemic has changed the way interviews are carried out, viewers have become fascinated with the backgrounds of spokespeople.

We all like a snoop around, and anything unusual or too cluttered will become a distraction and take the focus away from what is being said.

An upside-down broom against a door handle, no matter how well-intentioned in terms of preventing a TV mishap, will grab attention.

Mr Raab should have adjusted the camera so it was out of shot or found a different way of preventing a family interruption or dealing with a faulty door.

This was all amusing. But it feels a long way from the ceasefire the politician had begun his day aiming to discuss.

And that’s the issue. Through just a few errors, that could have been avoided with good media training, Mr Raab’s ceasefire message was swept away.

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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