How To

Media Training Tips: an interview with journalist Nick Britten

by Lisa Jones |

No strangers to being put on the spot, at spottydog we know what it takes to prep for a winning media interview. However, we also know that these skills can easily be acquired with the right training, which is why we are running our second Media Training event this autumn and we hope you’ll join us. We’re also excited to introduce Sky News, BBC News, ITV News and BBC East Midlands broadcaster Nick Britten as the expert who will be putting our trainees through their paces. We caught up with him earlier this month to ask him a few questions on what it takes to prep for the perfect interview…

As a journalist, what do you think makes a good interview?

A good journalist will always have their audience in the uppermost of their mind, and will tailor an interview accordingly. What will the audience want or need to hear/see? A good interview will always result in something new or different coming out of it if possible, but that’s not always possible. Mostly it will lead to content that is relevant, informative and interesting to the audience.

How do you think a press officer can help you when preparing a spokesperson for an interview?

Ultimately both parties taking part in an interview want the same thing – a good interview. The journalist wants something they can use while the interviewee wants to come across well and say what they went in there to say. The vast majority of interviews aren’t Jeremy Paxman style, they are straightforward conversations to reach that aim. So a good PR can help all parties by laying the foundations, and particularly with the journalist by asking the right questions. What do you need? What angle are you pursuing? What is your deadline? How long do you need for the interview? Is it live or recorded? And then by ensuring that the spokesman is prepared and fully briefed.

What was the worst interview you’ve ever done, and why?

There are plenty, and for lots of different reasons! I’ve interviewed two Prime Ministers, and that is something of a painful experience as you know what they’re going to say before you even ask, and they never seem that interested in what you are asking! On the other side of the scale, interviewing bereaved families or victims of crime is hard; there’s a fine balance of knowing what you need to get but remaining sensitive to their situation all the time, so it’s about knowing how far you can push. I guess the worst one was when I went to speak to someone in West Lothian about an ongoing police investigation. They took issue with my arrival and hit me with a baseball bat!

Why do you think people are worried about speaking to the media?

Mostly perception. They think every interview is going to be a grilling, or that the media is always out to stitch them up or twist what they say. That isn’t the case, but reporters get stereotyped on television and in films and people believe what they see. The other common fear is simply making a mess of it by saying something they shouldn’t, or drying up, or any manner of fears. This is where media training really helps; not just to advise on how to perform in front of a camera or conduct an interview, but also to explode some myths about how journalists behave.

What’s the most common mistake you’ve seen spokespeople make in an interview?

Drone on for too long or go off on a tangent. The two most common mistakes, and people do it all the time. We generally want answers that are concise, that make a point, that are relevant to the question, and that reflect the situation at that moment in time. We don’t want life stories, the process of how we got to where we are now (unless we ask), or lengthy answers making multiple points. Another common mistake is people simply repeating the same answer time and time again, regardless of the question. They might think they are being clever, but there’s no surer way to get a journalist’s back up. And that’s never a great place to be!

To register your interest in our media training workshop this autumn, please email Lisa Jones.