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As strange as it sounds, it has become increasingly popular for spokespeople to start their responses in media interviews by saying ‘so’.
It is something we have heard more and more of in recent years both during the interviews on our media training courses and on radio and television appearances.
But an interview we heard this morning must have been close to setting some kind of record.
In fact, the word was used a total of seven times when new Met Police Commissioner Cressida Dick appeared on Radio 4’s Today Programme (2hrs10mins).
‘So’ may sound like a fairly innocuous expression, and spokespeople can probably get away with using once or twice in an interview, but when used excessively it can be extremely distracting for audiences.
Not only that, but the real danger is they also find it irritating and stop listening to the messages you are trying to get across and switch-off altogether
We’ve written before about how this can ruin media interviews and to prove the point, here is what people were saying on Twitter during that interview:
#r4today So, Cressida Dick, did your Oxbridge education teach you to start every sentence with SO? Really?— Jean (@ceesav) April 18, 2017
Hmm. Cressida Dick has annoying habit of beginning every sentence with "So..." Detracts from otherwise sensible thoughts #r4today— Mark Gregory (@Gregom10) April 18, 2017
So, don't start sentences with 'so' unless you want to sound like a Muppet. #r4today— Jacka Garth (@SocialBeastie) April 18, 2017
So Cressida Dick is doing a #r4today interview and so beginning every answer with "So".— Briefcase Michael (@BriefcaseMike) April 18, 2017
Oh dear, Cressida Dick has caught the ‘begin every answer with “so”’ disease. #r4today— Annette Hardy (@Annette1Hardy) April 18, 2017
‘So’ is often used by spokespeople as a filler word and in many cases it has become the new ‘umm’. It can suggest a discomfort with the subject matter and cause a reporter to pursue that particular line of questioning.
But I’m not so sure that was the case in this particular interview as Commissioner Dick otherwise sounded calm, composed, authoritative and comfortable. She appeared to use ‘so’ in an almost pre-rehearsed way to signal the start of a detailed response – almost like saying ‘okay – here goes’.
However, whatever the reason using the word repeatedly distracted from what were otherwise sensible and detailed explanations with strong sound bites, such as vowing to ‘bear down on violent crime’, and that is the real shame of her excessive use of the word in this interview.
It sounded unnatural and overly rehearsed and obviously added nothing to her responses.
Starting answers with ‘so’ is the same as beginning them with the equally annoying and distracting ‘look’ or ‘like’ and they are all words which should be avoided in media interviews. Spokespeople should instead just get straight to what they want to say.
Interestingly, I later heard part of an interview Commissioner Dick carried out later the same morning with LBC and there I did not hear ‘so’ used at the start of any of her responses, which suggests she may have been briefed about her excessive use of the word between the two appearances.
But unfortunately that advice came too late for the Today interview and its distracted audience.
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