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Some Favourite Interview Moments from Online TV

See if you can learn the lessons.

How not to handle a media crisis: In early 2014 thousands of residents in Charleston, West Virginia were left without water to drink for several days, after a chemical leak from a storage facility owned by a little-known company called Freedom Industries. Local stores ran out of bottled water and West Virginia declared a state of emergency. Freedom’s president Gary Southern held an impromptu press conference to deal with a barrage of media enquiries. He looked enormously defensive and uncomfortable on camera, and tried to walk away while reporters still had important questions to ask – something which will always make you look guilty. Almost unbelievably, he was swigging from a bottle of mineral water as he spoke, merely emphasising to viewers that there was no other water to drink, and leading to YouTube responses such as this. Freedom Industries later had to file for bankruptcy.

Adam Boulton of Sky News loses it with Labour spin doctor Alistair Campbell during the 2010 election campaign, when he is accused of being politically biased. Tempers can easily become frayed after endless hours of live broadcasting, but you rarely win the debate by getting angry with your accuser, whether you are the one answering or in this case posing the questions!

One of several excerpts from the notorious Katie Couric interviews with Sarah Palin for CBS during the 2008 Presidential campaign. They pointed up her relative lack of political experience and were widely lampooned, especially on ‘Saturday Night Live’. They show how important it is to anticipate likely lines of enquiry from the interviewer—pretty predictable at the time, in this case—and have your answer thoroughly prepared. If you are trying to come up with a form of words on the spot, you are much less likely to sound convincing.

It’s hard to know what was going through the mind of American illusionist David Blaine at the time of this early interview on UK breakfast TV. The interviewer Eamonn Holmes has described the confrontation as the ‘longest five minutes of his life’ and is later quoted as saying ‘you didn’t know if he was jet-lagged, diabetic or had too much to drink’. The truth is that if you are really in this sort of state of mind it is better to pull out of the interview altogether. Otherwise, even if you are feeling like ‘death warmed up’, drink plenty of coffee and give it your all—you probably only have to perform for 3–4 minutes at most, then you can flop. The other lesson: don’t do an interview if you really have nothing you want to say.

A mix-up at the BBC news channel meant that while the presenter thought she was interviewing technology expert Guy Kewney, a minicab driver with a similar-sounding name who happened to be in the building was ushered on to the set instead. The look of horror on his face at the beginning is priceless. This is far from the first time such a mixup has occurred, leading to the wrong person being interviewed about the wrong topic. Enjoy the fact that even if you are expecting a tough interview, it is unlikely to be as awkward as this!

Media Training on the Go!

The M-factor - media training book

The M-factor: Media Confidence for Business Leaders and Managers

"If you want to understand how to get the media on-side, in good times or bad, this book is a good place to start." ~ Sir Stuart Rose, former chairman and chief executive of Marks & Spencer PLC.

A book by Tom Maddocks. Visit the book website for further details.

About Tom Maddocks

Tom Maddocks, Media Trainer

Tom Maddocks

Tom Maddocks is recognised as one of the UK's leading media training experts. He has been quoted on the subject in the Sunday Times, The Independent, the Financial Times and many more.

Tom is also the author of The M-factor: media confidence for business leaders and managers, a new, highly practical book aimed at helping anyone who has to deal with journalists understand the media mindset, know what reporters are looking for, give a good press or broadcast interview, deal with a crisis, and understand the impact of social media.