Ed Miliband & bad media training

I once met Ed Miliband while working for Oxfam.  He came across as sincere and intelligent, and I admired his humility. I subsequently voted for him as Labour leader.  I think I may have made a mistake.

See Ed make a fool of himself here.

The fiasco with the ED Miliband loop is lampooned brilliantly here by Charlie Brooker shows failure on so many levels. Ed needs to develop and show some guts – and taking bad advice from PRs is not it. He was asked some good questions here – he should have answered them.

In fact, journalist Damon Green is being a bit disingenuous.  He knows the game that is being played here. He understands soundbites, and on another day would have been happy to use one.

And every media advisor has watched in agony as client has been pulled off subject by a question, and then said something stupid.

Nevertheless, when I give media training I warn people against sticking exclusively to one or even three ‘lines’ or pre-prepared responses; yes put your messages across, but journalists are savvy to this ruse and will attack you if you consistently refuse to answer the question.

Of course, as a media-spokesperson, I’ve been in situations in which journalists are prosecuting their own agenda; I remember a particularly nasty live interview with a local radio DJ for which the Head of News apologised afterwards. But Ed Miliband wants to be Prime Minister. He has to start giving intelligent answers that express the anger of his electorate. He was, after-all, elected by the Unions.

On the other hand you get the Kenneth Clarke’s of this World who seem to be unable to give an interview without making a gaff.

So here’s my advice for the perfect interview.

  • Do your research well and prepare your key messages carefully. Practice working them into your answers.
  • But don’t sound like a bl@@dy Dalek. Learn your brief in its entirety, and be prepared to answer other questions.
  • Don’t demand that journalists tell you what they are going to ask, they probably won’t tell you and it gets their backs up.  Rather, ask them what issues they would like to address. You may get the same answer, and it treats everyone concerned with professional respect.

Yes we live in soundbite culture, and everyone involved in the media is responsible for that, but as a piece of media and public relations this failed. And Ed Miliband’s leadership has taken yet another wobble.


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