The spokespeople and interviews that stood out in 2020 – Day one

We’ve already put together our compilation of the worst interviews of the year, and will also be showcasing the 10 worst interviews from the past decade.

And we normally follow that up with our selection of the spokespeople and interviews that stood out for the right reasons over the past 12 months.

But in this strangest of years, we thought we would do it differently.

Rather than cram the spokespeople who’ve got it right into one giant media training blog, we are going to spread the love across the week.

So, here is day one of our five favourite media interviews and spokespeople of 2020 and the lessons you can learn from them.


The spokesperson who has become a household name

Not many of us would have been that familiar with Jonathan Van-Tam this time last year.

But 12 months on, and he is a household name.

England’s deputy chief medical officer has been a regular feature of the government’s Covid press briefings and one of its best performers – he is certainly someone we are using regularly as an example on our media training courses.

One of the reasons we do this is because of his use of examples, anecdotes and stories that are so important in bringing interviews and messages to life and showing the human side of spokespeople. It makes them relatable.

Here’s what he said about his mother in an effort to assure the public safety standards were not being compromised in the rush to get a covid vaccine.

He said: “I think the 'mum test' is very important here.

"My mum is 78, she'll be 79 shortly, and I've already said to her 'mum, make sure when you're called you're ready, be ready to take this up, this is really important for you because of your age'."

That quote was used everywhere.

The other great feature of “JVT’s” media performances has been his straight-forward language and use of metaphors.

Sometimes, messages from senior leaders can be obscured by strategic and lifeless language, which is hard to understand and instantly forgettable.

When the first lockdown restrictions were eased at the end of May, Mr Van-Tam warned the public “don’t tear the pants out of it”, and we all pretty much knew exactly what he meant.

In November, he compared the positive results from the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine trials with scoring in a penalty shoot-out.

He said: “So, this is like getting to the end of the play-off final, it’s gone to penalties, the first player goes up and scores a goal.

“You haven’t won the cup yet, but what it does is, it tells you that the goalkeeper can be beaten.”

And he compared the Pfizer vaccine to yoghurt when discussing its complicated storage arrangements.

He said: “This is a complex product. "It's not a yoghurt that can be taken out of the fridge and put back in multiple times."

He’s also not been afraid to tackle challenging questions from journalists. Asked whether people in authority should obey lockdown rules, following the Dominic Cummings saga, he said: “In my opinion, the rules are clear and they have always been clear.

"In my opinion, they are for the benefit of all. In my opinion, they apply to all."

Media training tips:

  • Use everyday words in your media interviews and keep your language as simple as possible.
  • Share stories and anecdotes to bring your messages to life and make them relatable.


Who else will we feature in our selection of the best interviews and spokespeople of 2020? We will reveal the second person tomorrow. 

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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