The best media performers are not necessarily naturals and even naturals, to perform well, need to practice. Preparation is the key to success, whether being on top of a particular issue or making sure you know what else might crop up as part of your interview. This isn’t to suggest that to perform well on TV or radio you have to become a fraud, just that you organise your thoughts in advance to maximise the opportunity to get your message across.
It was a big end to the week for the education secretary Michael Gove who announced proposals to make it easier for head teachers to get rid of bad teachers as a way to boost educational performance. As part of this announcement he made a number of media appearances but it wasn’t for his – although well directed – that he caught my eye.
It was a classic ‘one final question’ question at the end of the education secretary’s interview with the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4 where I felt he shone. After four and a half minutes of jousting over teachers, Jim Naughtie changed tack and asked Gove whether the UK government was bullying Scotland over the independence vote. Gove’s answer was perfect for the end of an interview. It was well prepared, full of easily clippable sound bites and talked out the interview without being over-long. In the context of the debate over Scottish independence, it moved on from discussing political process to introduce substantial themes over the choice facing the Scottish voters. At last a politician in favour of the Union was putting down a challenge to the SNP and his words were a powerful way, to use modern political campaigning speak, of framing the choice.
“Do the people of Scotland want to have the pound, the euro or an alternative currency? Do the people of Scotland want to have the same level of welfare benefits as the rest of the United Kingdom? Do they want to be part of the same nation that has a British Broadcasting Corporation and a National Health Service? Do they want the Royal Navy and British Army to remain institutions that embody patriotic feeling and sentiment, or do they want to sunder and separate them?” For being prepared to deliver this argument in a clear, concise and powerful way I make Michael Gove my Communicator of the Week.