A ‘hopeless’ way to handle a doorstep interview | Media First

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A ‘hopeless’ way to handle a doorstep interview

When experienced journalists describe your interviewing technique as ‘hopeless’ you should sit up and listen.

Michael Crick, the Channel 4 News political correspondent, describes this particular interviewee as ‘about the worst for doorsteps’ and says that he often gets ‘very angry’. He adds that he needs to be ‘more courteous and polite’.

John Sergeant, the BBC’s former Chief Political Correspondent, was equally scathing when he discussed the latest example on Radio 4’s Today programme last week. He said “He doesn’t realise that when he is walking towards a camera in a public place that it is like a great big news conference – he is talking to millions of people. So if he says ‘goodbye’ to reporter in a cross fashion that is just hopeless.”

They were of course discussing the latest doorstep interview performance from Jeremy Corbyn.

These interviews are admittedly notoriously difficult to manage, even for the most experienced of media operators, but surely the Labour leader has fallen foul of them enough times to know better by now?

As it stands he is building quite the back catalogue of video nasties.

Here’s his latest attempt at managing the media:    

A pretty farcical scene. So what should he do to avoid further doorstep mishaps?

Well, no-one likes being door-stepped, but showing your irritation does not come across well on camera. In the clip Mr Corbyn is clearly agitated by the presence of the reporter and his tone instantly becomes aggressive.

His manner could only have been worse if he had pushed the camera away, tried to block it with his hands or said no comment. In future he should try to be polite and courteous, simply saying ‘good morning’ or ‘hello’ to start proceeding on the right foot.

People fear doorstep interviews because they feel unprepared. But this apprehension is misplaced. The media are not looking for a detailed response. They are happy with a short sound-bite to help them update their story and a promise to say more later, once messages have been more fully developed.

Simply ignoring reporters allows them to ask more and more questions and the resulting silence becomes a story in its own right.

If you are really determined to say nothing at all, think about alternative entrances and exits to offices and buildings you use which may not be known by the media. Don’t get caught desperately trying to flee from journalists like Mr Corbyn.

Ultimately, when your organisation is in a crisis media management situation, the audience wants to see a spokesperson who is in control. Avoiding questions and struggling to open a door does not create an impression of competence.    

John Sergeant says that doorstep interviews are ‘tricky moments’ which can ‘create extraordinary television pictures’.

But they are only ‘extraordinary’ when they are poorly managed.

Here is a short video with more tips on managing doorstep interviews:

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