The mobile phone might be one of the great communication tools of modern times, but when yours rings in a studio just as you’re addressing a sizeable chunk of the nation, it can communicate all the wrong things.
Just ask Jenni Russell of The Times, who was being interviewed on Radio 4’s World at One programme yesterday.
Russell was mid answer during a discussion about the Labour Party’s manifesto, but as a result of the phone interruption, presenter Martha Kearney switched to another panellist.
When radio interviews are so short – just a few minutes in many cases – such a mishap can mean a huge missed opportunity.
In Russell’s defence, who hasn’t been been caught out by their phone ringing at inappropriate moments – remember that call on an early morning train, packed with sleeping commuters, the “Birdie Song” going off mid vows at a wedding, or the electronic chorus of “We Are The Champions” startling the children during the school nativity play perhaps?
But while these are all embarrassing, they probably don’t have the reputational damage potential of a ringtone interruption in a media interview.
The conclusion the audience might draw from a CEO committing this basic oversight when they’re being interviewed is that they’re clearly not taking care of the basics, so what hope for more complex issues? Perhaps the listeners will decide that this boss is obviously not prioritising the importance of the interview and taking the audience for granted.
While Martha Kearney switched to another interviewee, another unfortunate reaction from a presenter is to make the mishap the focus of their questioning, which is exactly what happened to actor Ryan Gosling when he appeared on BBC TV last week.
Net result for a celebrity: less time to talk about the new movie/book/show.
It also makes it harder for a person in authority – be they a company boss, movie director or football coach – to preach a message of discipline in their workplace when they’ve shown a lapse, which Chelsea boss José Mourinho seems to acknowledge here, when he’s caught out mid press conference.
Don’t assume the pre-interview checks stop at the maverick mobile; there are other basic points all interviewees need to cover, no matter how experienced they are with broadcast interviews:
- if it’s a radio interview, always jot down the name of the presenter, any other guests and any key information you want to convey, such as your company website address or a freephone number. No matter how familiar you are with them before you sit down, Sod’s Law says you’ll forget them at the crucial moment
- as well as making sure you’re not wearing anything that jangles, such as a bracelet, watch or earrings, think about what you’re wearing too, as many radio stations now have live webcams
- and if you’re not even going to a studio, but have been booked for a Skype interview, this has its own set of rules: check the background (a flip chart with sensitive information, a bookcase full of trashy novels, or colleagues sauntering back and forth are never good); make sure your face is not in shadow and remember to look at the camera – it’s all too tempting to focus on the image of who you’re talking to or that little shot of yourself.
And finally, the most important bit of advice I want to pass on is…hang on, what’s that ringing sound…