In our years of media training, we thought we’d encountered every possible type of broadcast spokesperson. That was until Anthony Scaramucci appeared on the BBC, interviewed by Emily Maitlis on Newsnight.
How could the most powerful man in communications be so poorly media trained? We spotted a catalogue of errors, some of which we’ve picked out here for your enjoyment (or horror, depending on how much experience in media training you have!)
“Where I come from, we’re front-stabbers.”
This is possibly rule number one for broadcast interviews: don’t say anything that could be used as a compromising soundbite. It can be easily taken out of context, even if you’re trying to make a reasonable point about trying to cut out the deceitful culture poisoning The White House. Using violent imagery, whether about stabbing, shooting, torturing or anything similarly violent, is something to avoid at all costs.
Know who you’re talking to
Asking Emily Maitlis whether she had been to a Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump rally is both rude and smacks of ignorance and unprofessionalism. She is the political editor of Newsnight and one of the most senior political correspondents working for the BBC. Of course she has been to these rallies, she would not be interviewing you if she wasn’t a credible political journalist!
“You only ask the questions but you don’t answer the questions.”
Turning your own questions back onto the interviewer is a common deflection tactic in political correspondence, but one that should be used with caution. Asking superfluous and rhetorical questions, like “do you want a great trade deal?”, strikes of attempting to put words in mouths and directing the interview in a particular direction. Any credible journalist will quickly sniff this out and call you out for it.
The personal space thing
Keep. Your. Hands. To. Your. Self. The Mooch wouldn’t touch Krishnan Guru-Murthy’s hands in such a way during a serious interview, why would he feel it’s acceptable to do so just because his interviewer is a woman? Never mind the blatant sexism involved here, viewers will be watching your wandering hands and not listening to your key messages, however good your answers are. And as a golden rule, trying to hug your interviewer is a big no. It’s awkward, unprofessional, and again – would you attempt this with a male reporter? Of course you wouldn’t!
Forecasting your own sacking
“If he wants me to leave tomorrow, then I’m not going to be here to stay.” Anthony Scaramucci didn’t know he would be in and out of the White House in record quick time, but even if he did know, there was really no reason to give anything other than a ‘yes, I’m here to stay’. Commitment to the cause is imperative, and while it looks unfortunate now in hindsight, there is a suggestion of distrust and a lack of confidence underneath saying something like this.
To watch the interview in full, click here. For some more media training tips, check out our blog; ‘5 Media Training Lessons from the General Election’. If you’d like to book into Media Training Taster Days, find the link here! They’re free and a fun hour’s experience on what it’s like to be effectively broadcast media trained (unlike our friend the Mooch). For anything else, get in touch via 0207 240 7373, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.