The spokespeople and interviews that stood out in 2020 - day five

We've reached the final day of our look back at the best interviews and spokespeople of 2020. 

We have already highlighted the excellent performances of Jonathan Van-Tam, Sarah Gilbert, Marcus Rashford and Andy Hall.

So, how do we complete our guide to the best communicators in this strangest of years?

Well, it has to be with the memorable interview performance produced by one of the people behind the first covid vaccine.

 

The professor and his celebratory brew

The importance of sharing personal stories and anecdotes has been a constant theme during this review of some of the best interviews of the year, just as it is on our media training courses.

But there is one more great example of this we had to include.

When professor Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech and one half of the couple behind the first covid vaccine, appeared on the Marr programme in November, it was his description of the phone call telling him whether it was successful that captured our attention.

“I knew that we would get a call at eight providing us with the answer,” he told presenter Andrew Marr.

“And I got the call from Albert Bourla, the CEO of Pfizer who is a good friend and he asked me if I would like to know if the trial is positive.

“I said ‘no’, but then I said ‘of course’. He said ‘sit down’ and then provided me with the information that the trial is positive, which was extremely relieving.

“As a scientist, of course, you expect a certain likelihood that the trial would be positive based on the data we had so far. But there are always unknown factors, and it could be that there is a scientific, medical or biological reason why the vaccine does not work.

“But we now know that our vaccine works and most likely that other vaccines will work as well. So, this is really a message that not only changes the way we develop vaccines but also increases the chances of getting this virus under control.”

Marr then followed up by asking how he celebrated.

“We did not have a lot of opportunity to celebrate,” Prof Sahin said. “I just discussed the results with my wife and how fantastic it is – it is an extraordinary result – and had a tea together and just looked back at the last months until we got this data and of course it provides joy.”

When the presenter suggested that British people would be “delighted” he celebrated with a cup of tea, Prof Sahin added: “This is not only British, it is also Turkish.”

It was a great exchange, packed with details and a touch of humour. And it helped to show the human side of the people behind the vaccine. As we say on our media training courses, people want to hear about other people.

Prof Sahin’s tea-drinking anecdote sounded completely natural in this interview. But it is worth highlighting he had previously used it in print interviews, including with the Guardian, New York Times and Washington Post. This suggests he was well-prepared for questions asking him how he had celebrated and knew he had an anecdote that worked well.

Media training tips:

  • Questions like ‘how did you celebrate’, may seem innocuous, but they have tripped up many spokespeople. The best way to avoid these sorts of questions being asked is by sharing personal stories and examples from the start of the interview. If you add the colour and human warmth, then the journalist will not need to go searching for it.

 

And that is it for our look back at the spokespeople who stood out for the right reasons this year. We hope you've enjoyed it and don't forget, you can also see our thoughts on those who didn't perform so well in interviews

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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