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An MP recently took to Twitter to complain about the abuse she had received about her regional accent following a television interview.
Angela Rayner, a Labour MP from Stockport, said she had been accused of being ‘thick’ because of her voice.
The tweet came following the Ashton-under-Lyne MP’s appearance on the Andrew Marr show earlier this month.
She said: "Anonymous hard right accounts attacking my accent again saying l am thick etc, I will reiterate I am proud of my accent and will not change!"
Anonymous hard right accounts attacking my accent again saying l am thick etc, l will reiterate l am proud of my accent and will not change!— Angela Rayner MP (@AngelaRayner) July 9, 2017
And it created some interesting headlines:
Labour MP Angela Rayner: “I’m proud of my accent” BBC News
Does having a northern accent make you sound thick? Manchester Evening News
Ever been made to feel ashamed of your accent? Stoke Sentinel
Now clearly some of this abuse could be from social media trolls who don’t like her politics.
But this issue also raises questions about regional accents in media interviews.
Should spokespeople try to change their accent when they are in front of a television camera or radio microphone? Should organisations avoid using spokespeople with a regional twang or a non-English accent?
These are questions which often come up during our media training courses.
No-one really likes hearing the sound of their own voice, but often we find participants on our courses are very conscious of their accents, particularly when they hear themselves back on TV and radio interviews we have done with them.
They often express a feeling of embarrassment and need to ‘posh up’ to be more articulate.
The current working journalists who deliver our media training always have the same response: ‘You will be more relaxed in front of the media being yourself’.
There are far more important things to consider in a media interview than an accent, such as ensuring you know the messages you want to get across and that you are prepared for any likely negative questions.
Of course you need to make yourself understood in media interviews in order for those messages to be heard (and to reduce the risk of being misquoted in print media). But this can be achieved through simple media training techniques like reducing the pace of responses and pausing for emphasis on key points, rather than through trying to hide or change an accent.
And there are actually many advantages to a spokesperson having a regional accent. They come across as being warm, friendly and genuine.
A regional accent can also help an organisation show a commitment to a particular area, and the people who live there, and help it engage and win the trust of the audience.
Importantly, journalists love spokespeople with a regional accent as it shows they are not London centric. And increasingly we are seeing more people on the airwaves and television screens with regional voices.
If you still have doubts, it is worth considering that during last year’s Olympics it was the interviews of two Irish rowing brothers and their Cork accents, which won the hearts of viewers and went viral. Silver medallists Paul and Gary O’Donovan came across as being completely natural, genuine and at ease in front of the media, despite the interest in them steadily growing.
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.
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