Dissecting a successful interview – the media trainer’s diet

Listening to and watching interviews is my lockdown fix. News bulletins, current affairs and podcasts – I am compelled to tune in. And as a media trainer, I tell myself this is a healthy, if unconventional daily diet.

The definition of a successful interview depends on whether you are reporting the story or ‘in the chair’. Every journalist has an agenda and as I always explain in media training, interviewees too, need a plan to make themselves heard. And tuning into 3 recent interviews, I heard three people, in very different circumstances, making a success of their air time.

Dame Louise Casey – BBC

Dame Louise Casey BBC Interview

Fresh out of government service last October, Dame Louise Casey explained the worsening impact of Covid-19 on families already in poverty. Children without shoes; women prostituting themselves to put food on the table – she served up stark propositions.

This was not drama for drama’s sake, but reality anchored in 20 plus years in government. An example of how real-life stories in interviews make a lasting listener impact.

Pippa Wicks – Channel 4

Pippa Wicks John Lewis - Channel 4 Interview

With breaking stories, the urgency of ‘new’ news often means interviewees face quick fire journalists’ questions and unwittingly speed up their answers.

When John Lewis’ Executive Director Pippa Wicks was quizzed about disappearing high street names, she was asked if the brand was facing an existential crisis.

Reiterating compassion for those affected, she set out specific things being done to shore up their online and instore offer. Projecting a reassuring tone, she refused to allow the urgency of high street closure to tip her calm tone into a hurried answer.

Helen Glover – Sky

Helen Glover Sky Interview

And if passion is the winning interview ingredient, then Helen Glover’s bid to get back on the GB Olympic Rowing Team demonstrated why.

Explaining in multiple interviews why she wanted to become the first British woman and new mum to qualify for the team, she credited the other athletes who had inspired her, acknowledging that lockdown had been the trigger for her latest sporting push.

Sharing this personal pandemic experience, she struck upon a universal truth which every listener can relate to – the potential of life in lockdown to re-evaluate and redirect our lives. A reminder that the best interviewees always connect with the audience.


Featured Image by Fringer Cat