The Eyes Have It

So - it's political party conference season. That means plenty of fuel for people like me, who love watching media interviews - and picking them apart!

As always, I just want to point out that this video doesn't reflect the political views of myself, or anyone else who works at MonkeyPants Productions. All we're doing is analysing interview technique.

Jeremy Corbyn is an interesting case study for media interviews, He can come across as a little nervous at times, and his style of speech is one that contains various bits of pauses, slight stammers and other little tics. None of them are particularly major - but together, they create an image of someone who isn't completely comfortable being interviewed.

The above interview is an excerpt of an interview Mr Corbyn did with Andrew Marr from the BBC, which was then shared by The Guardian website.

I think it was a strong interview. He clearly knew the message that he wanted to get across, he dealt with Andrew Marr pretty well - and we come away from the clip knowing what his aims are, especially when it comes to a potential General Election.

However, I've posted this clip because of something that Mr Corbyn does in the first few seconds - and it's something that can be a little distracting, and I want to make sure that if you're speaking to the media in any way, shape or form - you are aware of this particular pitfall. 

In the first 15 seconds, the camera is pretty much on Mr Corby constantly, so it's easier to spot - but watch his eyes. He blinks a little too much, which can convey nervousness - but his eyes flit from left to right almost constantly.

Now, I appreciate that this is something that you might not notice consciously, but you'll almost certainly register it on a subconscious level. Whenever you're watching someone speak, you're only paying partial attention to the words that they're saying - far more is being taken onboard from their physical cues :- the way they sit, what they do with their hands, where their eyes are looking - and it's this last one that I want to talk about here.

It's a given if you're on camera, but even if you're being interviewed for print or online media, or radio - the journalist will still want to be engaged with, so watch your eyes.

Eye contact is such a huge part of building trust in any relationship - and that even applies to interviews.

Because Mr Corbyn's eyes move from left to right and back again - that means that they're not making contact with Andrew Marr - and that's something that can affect how much we trust someone.

I know that eye contact is a major stumbling block for many people who have to give press interviews, or speak in public, but it's such an easy one to deal with. 

One way of dealing with it - is to practise. I'm not saying that Mr Corbyn should have challenged Andrew Marr to a staring contest, but he should practise even, continuous eye contact with someone at home, or someone in his media team. People don't like doing it because they fear that it can come across as a little too intense or intimidating. That's why you practise, though.

The other tip is just that - the tip of the nose. Unless you're about 2 feet away from someone, if you look at the tip of their nose, it looks like you're making eye contact. That way, you can allay that fear you have about eye contact - and the audience feel that you're a little more trustworthy because you're keeping (or looking like you're keeping) eye contact.

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How Do You Tell The Truth, But Make It Your Truth?

I'll be honest, I've tried to avoid looking at interviews that deal with Brexit - but it's almost impossible now.

As always, I feel that I must preface this by saying that this article isn't meant to represent my own, or the company's, political views - it's just analysing someone being interviewed...

Anyway, watch the video (it's pretty short) and then read what I say about it below.

The first thing that I noticed is that Nick Robinson started off by asking a question that wanted to know how the Prime Minister felt - but she didn't answer that.

More and more this technique is becoming known as a Politicians Answer - don't answer the question you're being asked, go straight through to getting out your Key Message.

From my point of view - and other media trainers may well disagree - I'm not sure that I like this approach. She was under no time constraints and I'm almost convinced that the answer wasn't edited - so why didn't she answer it?

It comes down to being afraid of the unknown - and making quite a few assumptions about the interviewer. Let's break that down a little more...

Theresa May, and her team, are afraid of her being made a fool of. That's a good fear to have - the jokes about her running through a field of wheat as a child are still being told months after her talking about it on Newsnight - but it has also stymied any chance of showing a real human side, certainly in a political interview like this one.

So - any questions with words like 'feelings' or 'emotions' in it, referring to the Prime Minister, are to be avoided. That's a shame. Nothing endears you to an audience more than when they realise that you are just like them - a person with fears, dreams and emotions. 

Of course, there is also an argument that we don't want that from a leader - we want someone to lead. If that's the case, why ask the question in the first place? It's because we've become increasingly interested in what people feel or think, personally, about something that they are experiencing.

The assumptions about the interviewer - the very experienced Nick Robinson - are that he would have other questions based on the possible answers she could give to that question - and now you're down a rabbit hole that could lead anywhere. Nick is used to getting interviewees to give the answers that they might not want to give - and it's that thought that scares media teams too. I know that if a client of mine was being interviewed by him, I'd have them briefed up to their eyeballs before the first question was asked!

Aside from that first answer dodge - Theresa May does pretty well here. She maintains eye contact and answers (most of) the questions well. She stumbles a couple of times but, seeing as she does this quite a bit, I'm inclined to think that this is more her own speech pattern, rather than any genuine show of nerves.

One final point to make about this excerpt - is when she admits that there will be disruption. This is another nice media technique. However, like anything, if you use it too much - it starts to show, and then it becomes useless.

Theresa May says 'short-term' disruption. Now, this isn't a term that many other commentators are making, and this brings me to the title of this article.

What the Prime Minister has done is acknowledge what a lot of her opponents are saying  - that there is going to be disruption with a 'no deal' Brexit - but added in her own truth, by calling it 'short-term' disruption. The idea behind this is to concede one point - but to also refute it at the same time. To be fair, that's quite a Politician's Answer too.

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The One Thing To Bear In Mind When Marketing Your Podcast


We do a lot here at MonkeyPants Productions - including podcast production.

However, at the moment, we don't offer the option to market your podcast too.

Couple of reasons for that - first of all, we just don't have the manpower to commit to working on marketing. Second of all I think, certainly in the beginning, that it's beneficial for the client to do their own marketing.

The only problem with this, of course, is that people can get it wrong.

So - I thought that I would write this piece to help out anyone that is currently starting their podcast, or thinking of starting a podcast.

After 30 years in the radio industry I've picked up a couple of things about promoting your show/station - and a lot of the same principles apply to podcasts.

No -I'm not saying that you should give away a car or a foreign holiday to get people to listen to your podcast (but, if you can - you should!), I'm saying that you need to think about the people you're engaging with.

Too often, I've seen people post about how fantastic their podcast is, what a great guest they have on the next episode, and how we should all listen - but not give us the chance! True, the post might tell us that the podcast can be found on iTunes, but nothing more than that.

This just isn't enough.

In this current climate of on-demand, instant entertainment and gratification it's not enough to tell us where to look - you have to lead us there too.

So, if you're posting about your great podcast, and how we should all listen to it - make sure you post a link too. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that you should never post about your podcast without including a link of some kind.

Whether it's the link to the episode itself (which is preferable) you should at least be posting a link to iTunes, Stitcher or Spotify.

For the truly lazy consumer, though, the links to the place where we can find your podcast just isn't enough. The link to the audio itself is the best bet. That way - they click and start listening.

As well as including the link - here's a bonus bit of podcast marketing advice. With your post - make the text appealing too. Don't just say 'here's my podcast - listen to it'. Think about why we should listen to it - what reason can you give us to click that link? Tease us, bring us in.

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He’s Not Standing For That!


Anthony is a lovely guy, very amenable, very likeable.

However, he can come across as a little hesitant in his answers - and I think that this is down to the fact that he is quite shy, and not someone who is used to talking about his sport. He prefers to let the boxing speak for him.

The interview starts off with quite a forthright question; there’s no gentle introduction to this - straight in with a tough one. He handles it well, if a little falteringly. Again, I think that’s his natural style, as opposed to any uncomfortableness that he feels.

One of the things that struck me whilst watching it, though, is his pose. Sitting on the side of the ring (which is the right thing to do - the size difference when standing between him and the reporter could have come across as comical), but with one leg raised. It looks little unnatural - and uncomfortable. 

I realise that he wants to look relaxed and fully at home in his surroundings, and with the interview - but it’s something I really bumped up against. 

The only other reason I can think of is that if he’d sat on the side of the ring, with his legs hanging down, that puts his body facing away from the reporter - and that could have looked a little rude.

If you’re ever doing an interview, or a video for your company - spend some time thinking about the area you’re going to record it. What can you see in the background? How do the colours around you make you look on camera? Washed out? Flushed?

Also - like in this interview - think about your pose. Are you standing or sitting? How much of will be visible? Can you comfortable face the camera/interviewer? If not, ask about changing the placing of the camera.The last thing you want is for attention to be anywhere other than on what you’re saying.

This was a nice interview for Anthony Joshua. He spoke well about the sport, and clearly has a real passion. He’s also clearly had some media training, because he answered some of the more difficult questions in such a democratic way, it’s hard to think that he’s not been taught that!

He kept good eye contact throughout, which is a great thing and something that carries more power than so many people realise.

All in all, this was a lovely interview that showed Anthony off in a good way - him and his media team should be pleased with it!

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It’s Rarely An Easy Ride on Radio 4

Have a listen to this interview on Radio 4 from 30th August with Steve Brine MP, all about energy drinks


The story was that the government was looking at banning energy drinks for children because of the amount of sugar and caffeine in them.

It sounds like the Minister for Public Health (Steve Brine MP) thought he was going to get an easy ride on this subject - but that just wasn’t the case.

With the first answer, he did something that a lot of media trainers will talk about - don’t necessarily answer the question that is being asked, but go straight to your Key Message answer. The only thing is, this can be quite frustrating for the listener, and is pretty much a ‘politicians answer’ - and that’s not a good thing.

Admittedly, Mishal Husain started with a challenging question - but there was a way of answering it without skipping over it and going straight into your Key Message answer. You could give a sentence-long answer, and then go onto your Key Message. Even if you only give a brief nod to the question asked - it’s an answer nonetheless.

The other thing is - the minister made two media interview errors, in my view. The first is that he, at times, answered more than he was asked. When Mishal asked if they were going to ban coffee for children, he went on a long answer about kids not queuing up outside coffee chains and sponsorship. You could argue that he just gave a very well-constructed and layered answer to the question. However, if you listen, it doesn’t sound like that. He stumbles a couple of times and seems to get lost in his answer. He could have cut that answer down by 7-8 seconds and it would have said exactly the same thing.

Also, he was too in his own head. This is something that I say to a lot of my media training & public speaking clients. You can’t be in your own head. The worst thing you can do is start to self-analyse. It goes without saying that you should always get recordings of your interviews, and use them to look at what you did well, and what you could improve on. But that process shouldn’t start whilst the interview is still going on! That’s what it sound like with Mr Brine. It sounds like he can hear what he’s saying, and he’s trying to self-edit whilst at the same time continuing the answer the question. You can’t do it. You certainly can’t do it whilst your on the Today Programme!

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