You know that Tesco saying about “Every little helps”?
I beg to differ.
In a media interview with a senior Tesco executive it was the “little” – in this case a small sideways glance – that created a negative impression in an otherwise pretty robust interview.
Tiny look, big impact.
It all took place in the first episode of the three-part BBC documentary War on Plastic with Hugh and Anita (at 54 minutes and 55 seconds).
As presenter Anita Rani put it, “After a couple of months of back and forth with Tesco by email, Britain’s largest supermarket are now happy to meet me.”
It wasn’t the most auspicious start to a media interview.
[Note to anyone who finds themselves in the negative media spotlight: journalists don’t stop reporting the story just because you won’t speak to them.]
But given they’d taken so long, I was pretty sure a company the size of Tesco would at least have used the time wisely to really think about what they wanted to say. Anita seemed to think so too: “No doubt I will be confronted with the Tesco PR machine,” she declared as she drove up to Tesco HQ.
There to greet her was the very personable and friendly Group Quality Director and packaging chief, Sarah Bradbury.
She appeared professional and welcoming.
So far, so good.
Anita started quizzing Sarah about Tesco’s use of plastic, and the supermarket staffer immediately and calmly landed a strong message. (This seemed to indicate some media training had taken place – the right approach, especially for such a high-profile, challenging programme.)
“Our policy is to reduce packaging to ensure we can re-use it, and to recycle it as well,” said Sarah positively and confidently.
It was a strong start.
But then came the “little” matter I mentioned.
Anita suddenly pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat, or in this case some peppers out of her bag, and declared, “I was in one of your Tesco’s today and I want you to see what I bought…”
As Anita delves into her bag, Sarah suddenly looked in the opposite direction [to a PR adviser perhaps?] with what I would describe as an uh-oh-what’s-coming-now look.
The Big “Little” Moment.
It took a split second. She might not even have realised she did it, nor that the camera was still on her, but it’s there and the TV production company knows it has caught something.
To Sarah’s credit, she goes on to answer the question about the price of packaged and non-packaged peppers pretty well, but that look spoke volumes – as powerful as the good corporate messaging Sarah had achieved.
It seemed like a real “gotcha” moment.
To be fair, Tesco did so many things right with this interview, not least granting it in the first place (though sooner would have been so much better) and hats off to Sarah for stepping up to the proverbial plate.
But what Tesco and all media interviewees should learn from this is that no matter how much you prepare what you want to say, you really need to practise how and where you look.
You must give the impression you expected the unexpected.
Gestures speaks volumes.
It’s all in the eyes.
Every move you make, the audience is watching you.
Watching every little look.