Published - 10th November 2015
As a journalist turned PR professional, I watched Sebastian Coe’s excruciating interview with Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow with mixed feelings.
One half of me was like a boxing fan at a title fight, screaming for Snow to keep landing blows that would leave a bloodied Coe reeling against the ropes. The other, more contemplative half of me, wondered how on earth Lord Coe had got himself into this situation, and why he wasn’t better prepared.
It’s hard to believe that a man who must have been media trained to within an inch of his existence could put on such an evasive performance.
While Snow’s centrepiece question of “sleeping on the job, or corrupt?” is an absolute zinger, it shouldn’t have escaped Coe or his advisers that it was coming. Coe would have gone into the interview knowing full well that a journalist of Snow’s repute wasn’t going to give him an easy ride, so why wasn’t he better prepared?
Has his ego spiralled out of control to the extent that he refuses to listen to advice from trained media professionals? Did he just think he’d be able to waltz in, puff his chest out and deflect any of Snow’s blows?
Whatever his thinking, it’s clear that he made a mistake. He’s now in a significantly more fragile position than he was before the interview, and he has given media trainers across the world reason to celebrate – his performance has proven our worth!
Car-crash interviews are all too common amongst celebrities, politicians, and people in positions of power, because the challenge of handling the media is so widely underestimated. The best-prepared public speakers never come unstuck, because they go into every discussion, debate and interview having considered every possible angle of questioning.
Here are some of my favourite examples of how to deal with tough (in these cases, stupid) questions from journalists: