Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Media tips from a muscle man

I was in my local leisure centre gym recently where one of the sizeable personal training staff was strutting around the gym floor. An intimidating looking gentleman particularly for someone like me of a Sarkozy level of stature. What soon became clear as I cycled away on a spinning bike was how his physicality was an influence on how people reacted to him.

I don't know the guy but in the 20 minutes or so we were both in the gym he seemed to be a likeable gentle giant of a man; greeting everyone he crossed paths with a cheery "alright boss". What was amazing - and the point of this blog - was how people reacted to him.

Some smiled and nodded sheepishly, others said "hi" but the majority responded with exactly the same phrase as our gentle giant had used to greet them - "alright boss".

It struck me that there are parallels to the reaction of these gym users to an intimidating muscle man and the way a lot of people behave when conducting a media interview. When people are nervous and feel a little intimidated by the journalist interviewing them, they are all too often prone to using the same phrases and terminology used by the journalist. As my observation in the gym demonstrated it is human nature to look to build a connection with someone who might be a threat.

There is however a problem with this which is that very often journalists will deliberately use leading questions or certain phraseology in a bid to trip up those they are interviewing.  If you are prepared it is easy to spot and then to avoid. If you are not prepared you will find yourself mirroring the language of the journalist in a way that might be harmful to your, or your organisation's, reputation. So remember the gentle giant and don't do it.

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