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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