Mr Bean, Has-Bean (?)

WARNING! There's some fruity language in this clip. NSFW!

I wanted to have a look at this clip ever since first watching it a couple of days ago.

I love Rowan Atkinson. I've loved him since his first days of solo stand-up. His ability to create laughter with just a look is incredible.

He also doesn't do much press, so I jumped on this as an example of a great interview, by someone who just doesn't do them.

There's a couple of reasons that Rowan doesn't do much press. For a start, he's incredibly shy; much more comfortable spending time with his family and his cars, than on a red carpet or star-studded event.

Also - he has a stammer. He's clearly been working on reducing it as much as possible, and that's something else that makes this interview something quite incredible.

His approach to the interview is simple. His only Key Message is to publicise his new film. He does that well, with help from Graham Norton who clearly knows why he is on there, and plays a clip from the film too.

However, there are other things that you simply must ask Rowan Atkinson about - one of them being Mr Bean. This is a global character, known by millions. His last appearance as Mr Bean (apart from the chocolate bar commercial) was in 2015. People love the character, and many of them would love to see him return.

Graham was always going to ask about it, and even if Rowan didn't have the nod from the BBC about that question, he's certainly savvy enough to know that it would come up.

So - does he, when asked, simply say  'Nah - there's nowt else to do!'?

Of course not. That kind of answer just doesn't work on a show like Graham Norton's. It's all about the anecdote; the story; the tale. In this age of 'share-ability', celebrities telling short stories can be shared across social media, creating a much bigger audience.

And that's another aspect of the wonderful nature of this interview. From watching it a number of times, Rowan goes into a character. True, it's a character called Rowan Atkinson who looks exactly like himself - but he just has a bit more about himself; a bit more spunk (no laughing at the back!)

The story itself is lovely, but Rowan's telling of it gives it a new dimension, a new life which makes it wholly his. And that's the lesson here.

If you are doing an interview, and the question, or opportunity, comes up to tell a story about yourself - take it. However, keep in mind a couple of things.

Obviously, make sure that the story is one that can be repeated/broadcast in polite company.

Also, make sure that you've practised it. You can be sure that Rowan Atkinson practised telling the story about the man in the car parts centre near Peterborough. That's how he knew where the peaks were, where the pauses should be, what kind of voice he should use for the man - and what the ending of the story should be.

Sometimes, with some interviews, it's not enough to just get your Key Message across - sometimes 'they' want more. You just need to have a cunning plan up your sleeve for when that moment arrives.

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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.

If you'd like help with your Media Training and interview skills, get your hands on our Essential Media Training Checklist here

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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.

If you're someone who wants to know more about media training, we've got our Essentials Checklist here

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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.

If all this podcasting nonsense is confusing, get hold of our Essential Podcast Checklist here

Or you can get in touch with us to talk more about how we can help you with podcast production here

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!

If you’d like to find out more about our Media Training, why not book a call here

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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!

If you, your business or organisation, would like to look at your media training, get in touch for a consultation, by booking a phone call here, or get our free Essentials Media Training Checklist here.

All Downhill From The First Answer

If you've ever listened to the radio for any length of time, particularly speech radio, then you'll have heard an interview that will make you cringe.

I'm going to talk about such an interview in this article. Listen to the interview from BBC Radio 4 on Friday 24th August.

So - the interview is with Patricia Yates from Visit Britain. She's accomplished at what she does and has a good, listenable voice. I'm saying this because I don't want her, or anyone else, to think that I'm targeting her - I'm not. I'm just using her interview to illustrate a few points about prepping for an interview.

As the title of this article suggests, it all goes wrong with the first answer. We don't know what's happening where Patricia is, but something significant enough to make her claim that 11 BILLION people stay at home in the UK! She seemed unsure before she even gave that figure and corrects herself as soon as she says it. However, she goes on to say some more figures - none of which answer the question that she was asked!

Then, the interview just seems to get away from her. She doesn't always answer the questions that are being asked, and the presenter is doing his best to not make this any more stressful that it clearly already is for the guest. There are some unscrupulous interviewers who would have gleefully jumped on her early nerves and used them to make her look foolish. Not so on the Today Programme!

What this all shows us is the importance of 1) Prep and 2) Rehearsal. She would have know what the subject of the interview was, so could have easily prepped and rehearsed an interview beforehand. None of the questions put to Patricia were particularly difficult, and everything fell well within her remit at Visit Britain. So - why is this one such a difficult listen?

Well, firstly - we all want the interviews to go well. We don't mind hearing interviews that are a little prickly, hostile or confrontational - if there's a good reason for it. But very few of us want to hear an awkward interview - when the guest is clearly struggling with the mere fact of being asked questions on the radio; and that's what was happening here.

Of course, there is always the chance that Patricia Yates just had a major brain freeze and found that everything she has prepped for had just fallen out of her head. It could be that she was a last minute replacement for another guest, or that she was just fed bad information.

Whatever it was, I cannot imagine that she finished the interview and thought "Yes, that was a good one!". 

Could she have prevented it? Possibly.

Going back to the prep and rehearsal aspects that I talked about earlier - the first answer is one that you want to make sure you get absolutely right. If you know that the interview is going to be about the rise in popularity of "staycations" in the UK, then there are only a couple of options as to what the first question is going to be:

  • How many people are "staycationing" in the UK this year?
  • Is it not cheaper to go abroad?
  • Why should people think about staying in the UK for their holiday?

All three of those questions were asked, in one form or another, and none of them were properly answered. If Patricia Yates had prepped and rehearsed the answers, she would have felt more assured with what she was saying - rather than going for the scattergun 'stats and generalities' approach.

If you're being asked to be a guest on an interview that is connected to your job, then you should be ready to go at pretty much a moments notice; it's your job after all. That just wasn't the case here.

It's good that she admitted that she had gotten the figure wrong at the beginning, but she should have just take a second or so to gather herself and start again. Many people think that that isn't possible - but it is. A second's gap is enough to reset your brain, regroup and begin again.

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Walking Out Of A Press Interview

I thought that I would talk about the UKIP group leader Gareth Bennett, who walked out of an interview with WalesOnline last week. The link to the interview and the website is here.

The interviewer was Ruth Mosalski. She is an experienced journalist, who wanted to speak to Mr Bennett about some of his views, which had been seen as controversial.

I just want to take a second to talk about myself. I realise that a lot of the media interviews I post contain either politicians, or have a political lean to them. I just want to state here and now that I do not seek to push any particular political agenda with these articles and videos - I'm just looking at them from a media training point of view, that's all. Okay, on we go...

It all starts off fairly innocuously when Ruth asks about immigration. Mr Bennett would have known that this was coming and would have prepped for it, or his accompanying press officer would have prepped him. It's clear from how he begins to answer that he knows what his answer is going to be. It's a well-rehearsed answer. However, with Ruth begins to challenge him - talking about the shopkeeper at the end of the road - things begin to change.

Gareth Bennett makes the point that HE is talking about the net effect of immigration, whilst she is talking about individuals. That's a fair argument - but his whole body language and tone becomes a little hostile here, as though he's being sarcastic. That's never a good thing from an interviewee's point of view. Politeness is key. Ruth is a great interviewer and likes to poke at her guests from time to time. The correct response from an interviewee is to take a moment, remain calm, and make your point about the difference between net immigration and individuals.

Then, at about 3.20, Mr Bennett makes, what I feel, is another interview faux pas. He sighs, looks up and starts to tell Ruth Mosalski what she needs to do. How she needs to think about the matter of immigration. Now - do you think that that is going to endear you to the interviewer, or create a divide between the two of you. Yep - it's the latter. It doesn't matter if the interviewer doesn't think in the right way, there's a very definite right way to get your point across; and it's not sighing, rolling your eyes and being sarcastic.

I've said it time and time again (in fact, it's in a Media Training Checklist that I published, which is available here) that politeness is key. Your words aren't the only thing that people take away from an interview. Your tone, your delivery, your dress, your body language - they all go towards people's impression of you. Quickly on that note, if Mr Bennett knew that he was going to be filmed, I would have probably applied a little foundation. That sweaty sheen gives off the impression that he was nervous. Whether he was or he wasn't, that's the impression that he was giving off.

A few moments later, following the burkha question, Mr Bennett sighs again. I can't tell you how off-putting this is.

Now, some of you will be thinking that there is nothing that Gareth Bennett could do in this interview that would make you like him. His political views are not in line with your own, so you're never going to love him. That's not the point, though. The point is for you to listen to what he has to say - and for him to be allowed to say it. Ruth does that here - but Mr Bennett seems to be reacting because he thinks he knows whats coming, what Ruth thinks, why she thinks that - and what's wrong with that thinking. If he had been courteous, charming, a little self-deprecating throughout the interview - we would have come away with a very different view of him.

So - to the walk-out. He decides that Ruth isn't listening and is a 'rubbish interviewer'. How it looks to us, though, is that he is unwilling to answer the question because he perceives that the interviewers intention is to show him up, or make him look foolish, or uncompassionate.

I don't know about you - but that's not what I was thinking at all. I thought that it was a rigorous interview where both sides were a little prickly.

In summary - he shouldn't have walked out. It would have made him look so much better if he had remained calm, been courteous and continued to answer the questions. True, his answers might have made things more awkward - but, in that case, you've got to look at whether or not you should have said them in the first place if you're not willing to sit down and properly debate and stand by them when challenged. Just to repeat, though, this isn't a judgment on Mr Bennett or UKIP. I'm speaking from the position of a media trainer as to how he could have dealt with things differently.

If you'd like to talk about media training for your group, organisation or business, get in touch here.

Is There Such A Thing As An Unsuccessful Press Interview?

Being honest and transparent here, I’ve spent the last 10 minutes changing the word ‘Unsuccessful’ in the headlines to ‘Bad’ – and then back again. In the end, I thought that I would leave it at unsuccessful and explain why I went through the back and forth over one word.

A client that I was delivering some media training to recently used the phrase, that I’m sure you’ve heard, of “No press is bad press”

Essentially, this phrase is saying that it doesn’t matter why you or your company, or brand, appears in the news – it’s all exposure, and that can never be a bad thing.

Is that right, though? I’m not convinced – and I said so to the client. This then turned the conversation as to whether there is such a thing as a bad (or unsuccessful!) press interview.

For me, the answer is much more clear on this – and the answer is ‘yes’ – but the reasons are a little more complex. It all depends, as with many things, how you look at it.

With a media interview, there is only one thing that makes it a successful one – did you get your intended message across? Say, for instance, that you want to talk about your new website, but the entire interview is taken up with you talking about the quality of your product and your excellent safety record. It’s a successful interview as far as the brand is concerned – but it didn’t fulfil the initial point of having the interview in the first place. In that case, I wouldn’t say it was bad – just unsuccessful.

The skills that you have as a business owner, or CEO, or manager extend to you talking up your company or brand; inspiring your staff; knowing the industry that you work in etc. What they don’t necessarily include is how to deal with a press interview. So, when you went in to talk about your new website you came out more than happy with the interview because you still talked about the company in a positive way. The only problem is – all the people that were listening/watching/reading that interview STILL don’t know about your new website!

That’s where Key Messages come in. You should have at least one for each interview. How many you have in total depends on the length of the interview. If it’s 4-5 minutes then one, maybe two, is enough. If it’s a 30 minute in-depth discussion, then you should be able to get away with at least 5 Key Messages.

Of course, there are those who would say that you can’t always get your Key Message away – unless the interviewer directly asks about it. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong.

Wrong

For instance, let’s say that you’re invited in to talk about your specific industry – let’s say it’s retail – and you want to make sure that you get your Key Message about the new website across. Okay, the question is “Where have all these retailers, like Woolworths and Toys R Us, gone wrong?”. Someone who didn’t understand Key Messages would say something like “Well, I think that there are many factors that you could point to – the economy in general, the rise in cheaper imports and the increase of online shopping”. That’s a good, well-thought-out answer – but it doesn’t get across your Key Message. How about this answer instead? “Well, I think that the initial unwillingness to move online is something that many retailers are now regretting. It’s such a shame to see such High Street names disappear. However, and I think that they would agree with this, becoming a more digital brand and diversifying is something that could have, potentially, averted real problems later on. At my company, we nearly made the same mistake and, if it wasn’t for the great team we have in place, we wouldn’t have the great online presence that we’re now enjoying”

Of course, you’ve not said the words “Hey! Look at our new website!”, but you’ve placed the idea that your company has a good website (….great online presence….) in the mind of the listener/reader/viewer and that’s a plus.

Now – what I’m not saying that is every single answer has to include your Key Message:

Interviewer: 5 months ago you moved from a mainly clothing-led market, into a more food-based one. Can you talk us through the thinking that led to that decision?

You: Yeah, we changed and you can see just how good the change is on our website!!

OR

Interviewer: Finally, we’re in the middle of the World Cup. Who do you think will win?

You: Our customers, when they visit our new website!

Eek! I cringed just typing out that exchange… However, it illustrates my point that you don’t need to wrestle every answer back to your Key Message. Get at least one in a 4-5 minute interview and – get it in early. You’ll want to mention it, in whatever form, in the first couple of answers.

So, that’s what makes a Press Interview an ‘unsuccessful’ one. A bad one would be where you just say the word ‘website’ over and over again, no matter what the question is.

Awkward.

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