Wednesday 14 November 2012

Mis-Communicator of the Week: George Entwistle

Many journalists dismiss people like me who offer media training services to our clients. I’ve spoken to some news presenters and reporters who bemoan the fact that, when faced with someone who has been competently trained, they are unable to “get the story I wanted”. On Saturday morning veteran BBC journalist John Humphrey’s seemed to get the story and result he wanted after a saying to the then BBC director-general, George Entwistle, “you should go, shouldn’t you?”

One should be fair to the BBC staffers who grilled their – at the time at least - ultimate boss when he was facing dire accusations of incompetence about the BBC’s editorial performance. That said, although the tone of the questions aimed at Mr Entwistle was firm the actual content of the questions could have been easily predicted in advance. Arguably, if he had handled these interviews better, particularly the interview on the Today programme which is such a strong agenda setter in the political-media world, Entwistle would still be the BBC director-general today. That he did not illustrates the importance of performing well in every interview and seizing that opportunity to get your message across.

When frequently asked by clients what one tip I would give anyone appearing on TV or radio my answer is simply one word: preparation. Entwistle came over as someone who had given in the fight on Saturday morning, this may have been the case or, more likely, he gave that impression by being so ill-prepared for the interviews he gave. This is unforgivable but the most common mistake people make, even those who have a long and distinguished career in television like the former BBC boss.

Those journalists who dislike politicians who are well prepared for interviews should recognise that this is a professional approach to agreeing to such an opportunity. In my experience the very best media performers are those who practice the most and know what they are going to say before they get in front of the camera or microphone. George Entwistle failed in his duty to positively represent the BBC, explain the steps he was taking to protect the reputation of this institution or communicate a message of competence. For this he is my Mis-Communicator of the Week.

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