13 Apr A Storm in an Egg Cup
This Easter weekend, many of us will herd small children to National Trust properties for the annual egg hunts. It’s a hugely successful event with choc giant, Cadbury’s, now in its 10th year. It’s hard to think of a less controversial brand partnership than these two family-friendly, iconic institutions… yet somehow this year they were at the centre of a religious scandal that incurred the wrath of the Prime Minister. And no, it didn’t happen on April Fool’s Day, I checked.
The premise of the story was this: the National Trust erased “Easter” from the name of its egg hunt. The Church of England blew a holy gasket, the Prime Minister ranted on national news, the media went mental… until it turned out that it was all nonsense. The National Trust had not removed mention of the word Easter – it was liberally strewn across all marketing and web content. And yes, it took all of five seconds to spot that, I checked.
So what’s the point here? Some bright spark sent the country’s most influential woman onto a live news broadcast to give an impassioned view on, as Mr Trump might put it, “fake news” – and that’s a PR crime. It made us think about the topic of media interviews – of which we’ve secured and managed hundreds for clients – and how important it is to get them right.
Media interviews should be viewed with excitement; it’s a huge platform for positive publicity. Consequently, every interviewee deserves to go forth feeling well informed about the issues that matter. And while even the very best spokespeople slip up occasionally, with some basic training and good preparation with factual info, foot-in-mouth moments are rare.
It is prudent, prior to having a reporter is in your face or at the end of the phone, to know your subject matter well and choose what to have a strong opinion about. If your firm or industry faces big issues (i.e. the Government and Brexit), then to be vocal about a trivial issue (i.e. whether the word Easter appears in enough marketing material) can make you look out of touch – or worse, intentionally diverting attention. Pick your topics wisely and your battles even more so; this is where decent PR advice can help.
The same rules apply to conversations in the pub as they do for media interviews; don’t wade into a debate on a topic you have only a rudimentary grasp on and don’t be drawn into arguments! It’s ok to say to a journalist “I’m not in possession of all the facts on that”, rather than to get it wrong – and you can follow-up afterwards once you’ve got the correct info. There’s also a great media training technique called ‘bridging’, where you steer a conversation away from a tricky question, which is worth learning.
In conclusion: go into media interviews with the facts, stay on topics you feel comfortable with, be passionate about the right issues and use it to positively enhance your reputation. If Theresa May can get caught out picking a fight with the Easter bunny, bad media interviews can happen to anyone – so get the right guidance. The public have long memories (thanks, the Internet!) and hastily made soundbites can echo on, even when the crumpled foil from this year’s Easter eggs is long gone.
Have a lovely Easter break, we hope it’s relaxing and full of chocolate!