Media training tip: ‘So’ this was a distracting way to answer questions in an interview

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‘So’ this was a distracting way to answer questions in an interview

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.

'Starting answers with 'so' may seem fairly innocuous but it can be extremely distracting' via @mediafirstltd

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:



‘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.

Saying 'so' repeatedly in a media interview sounds unnatural and over rehearsed' via @mediafirstltd

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.

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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