#MediaLit17 Chronicles 10: Interviewing Theory

Today we kick off with a morning of sessions on being interviewed, either radio or television; presented by Canterbury Diocese’s Director of Communications — Anna Drew. The morning starts with a look at the theory and then later we will give it a go ourselves.

The first example was the Lord Pearson interview where it ended:

The interview ends like this:

Sopel: Have you read your manifesto?

Lord Pearson: Of course.

Sopel: Really.

Lord Pearson:Yup.

Sopel: You don’t seem very familiar with it.

Lord Pearson: I haven’t remembered it all in great detail. I didn’t come on to talk about this sort of thing.

Taken from the NewStatesman

This is a prime example of giving a bad interview!

One element to be aware of is the disparity between the agenda of the interviewer and your own agenda; how do you get to say what you intend to say when they want you to say what they think will fit their intended narrative.

Posture is also important — particularly for television.

The next example was this interview in 2009 of Lord Mandelson by Andrew Marr:

This was held up as a great interview under pressure, regardless of what you think about his politics. However, the response in the room was more divided. Some felt that he was being insincere and slippery, while others felt that he was being reasonable and calm. What do you think? Let me know in the comments.

There was a good conversation surrounding the dynamics of public apologies for mistakes. If you can manage that well, then people are more likely to trust you. But, as one person pointed out, this didn’t work so well for Nick Clegg following the failed tuition fee pledge. Anna explained that it helps to understand the degree to which ownership can be asserted over the mistake.

The messiness of the church is not always easy to manage in communication terms. — Anna Drew

It was fascinating to observe people’s reactions to the interview and the ways in which their own personal preconceptions influenced the way in which they perceived Lord Mandelson’s actions and attitude. Anna helpfully noted that this slick presentation worked very well in 2009 but probably wouldn’t work well in 2017 (at which point someone coughed, “Trump!”)

Anna suggested that there was an interesting clash between Mandelson as a person and in his role in this interview, which shaped his priorities; which he was actually successful in communicating.

Church PR has a very different focus to normal PR practice. The reputation of the church only matters in so far as it serves the mission of the church, but the reputation of the Church doesn’t need to be defended at all costs. Presumably this means that there are situations where the Church has to own its mistakes and failures.

The session moved on to the 9 commandments of interviews

  1. Don’t be rude. Ever.
  2. Don’t lie or guess.
  3. Smile (if appropriate) [Even on the radio!]
  4. Prepare and Practice.
  5. Know: What? When? Where? Why?
  6. Be yourself.
  7. Get Dressed. [To your shoes, will help psychologically].
  8. Speak English. [Not jargon].
  9. Think: What’s the worst that could happen?! [Identify weaknesses and prepare for them]

This last rule was illustrated with this great clip: Baldrick’s Law. Identify what you bullet will be and make sure that you’re as protected as you can be. It’s a humorous but important point, and this will help you remember!


  • Give shortest possible answer
  • Bridge: repeat the question and then segue into your topic
  • Give your key message, illustrated by an example
  • “That’s an important point but a more pressing one is…”

Smart Statistics

  • Use pictures, make the number imaginable
  • Eg: Five Football Fields, 9/10 Cats, a population the size of London


  • Strong and stable
  • For the many not the few
  • Hardworking citizens
  • etc

3 is the magic number

  • Using the rule of three is an effective way of communicating
  • Eg: Planes, trains and automobiles; Education, Education, Education

Tell a story!

  • Make it personal
  • Why does it matter?
  • Why does it matter to you?

We then watched this brilliant interview with Richard Ayoade:

No one was going to advertise his book but him, so to sell himself he just was himself; and this created an entertaining and engaging interview.

And that brings us to the end of this particular session, though after a break we will return to get some practice doing interviews. So the next post will be this afternoon to do with multimedia liturgy.

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