The more media interviews I hear, the more certain phrases really grate. Those who utter them need to take note, because in broadcast interviews they can produce two disastrous audience responses: listeners or viewers switch off, or worse, switch over.
Here are my top five phrases to avoid:
- “Going forward.…”. Bizarrely, this is increasingly common – bizarre because it adds nothing to an interview, but instead uses up valuable time. Leave it out – the future tense will suffice. e.g. instead of saying, “Going forward, we will introduce two products..” just say, “We will introduce two products…”
- “I think…”. This invariably strikes a note of uncertainty when that’s rarely what the interviewee intends: “I think we’re easily the market leader…”; “I think we’ve handled this crisis in a professional manner” etc.. Remove it and the statements sound far more certain.
- “So, what we did….So, when we…So, after we…”. Beginning responses with the word “So” seems particularly beloved of marketing people and scientists. In normal life, no-one begins a reply to questions such as, “Why did you choose that from the menu?/ What made you oversleep…?/ How have you got ketchup on your tie…?” with “So,…”
- [Repeating the question]. When you might have only a few minutes to convey your messages, don’t waste time repeating the question e.g. “What makes you think this new car will be a big seller?”, “We think [groan] it will be a big seller because….”; just get straight to the main advantages of the product. The one exception is the “soundbite” which forms part of a “package”, because the journalist’s question could be cut out. This means your response will probably need to include the question, so the whole report flows and makes sense.
- “I think the question you should be asking is…”. I doubt anything angers a journalist more than hearing this response to his/her question. It sounds both insulting and like a classic dodge. It usually just encourages the journalist to ask the question again, which often means repeating a damaging negative. If you really think the reporter has got the wrong angle, it’s far better to say, “There is another side to this…” or “That’s absolutely not how I see it because…”.
So, going forward, I think, to answer my own question, “How do you communicate more effectively?”…Mmmm…see how annoying that sounds?