Many of you will have heard about the Green Party leader Natalie Bennet’s epic fail when she was interviewed on LBC recently, even if you don’t have an interest in politics you will probably be aware that a politician cocked up big time on live radio.

Whether that will affect the Green Party’s campaign I don’t know, but despite Natalie’s interview being dubbed ‘the worst political leader’s interview ever’, she is not the only leader to have ever messed up when it comes to a media interview. Here’s three examples of (many) other cock-ups.

Boris Johnson

Boris Johnson is no stranger to looking like a fool when it comes to interviews and his interview with the BBC’s Eddie Mair is a prime example. At one point in the interview Eddie Mair, who was standing in for Andrew Marr, said to the current London Mayor, “You’re a nasty piece of work aren’t you?”

Of the interview Boris said: “I fully concede it wasn’t my most blistering performance.”

Nigel Farage

Similarly to Boris, Farage is again no stranger to acting a bit of a fool. His interview live on air with LBC’s James O’Brien was described as a painful 22 minutes of interviewing. Farage was asked questions such as whether his party is racist, how comfortable he is with his wife speaking German and his financial arrangements. To make matters worse Farage’s communications director interrupted live on air.

Ed Miliband

Ed Miliband put himself in a sticky situation on ITV’s Good Morning Britain when he claimed his grocery bill was just £80 a week when at the time the average family of four spent over £100. Miliband was accused of being out of touch considering he was claiming the cost of living crisis was the biggest issue the country was facing.

Liberal Democrats

A major cock-up for the liberal democrats came when a spokesperson’s briefing and Q&A was sent to journalists by accident. This revealed plans to tax the richest ten percent of people which they described as those earning over £50,000. Consequently this mistake became the story and a spokesperson was recorded as saying there was categorically no new tax plan to target those earning over £50,000.

So what can we learn from these mistakes?

So what can those working in communications learn from this? In the case of the Liberal Democrat cock-up, always check you’re not emailing a journalist when you don’t want to be. When it comes to broadcast interviews never ever, ever let your spokespeople, whether you work in-house or in an agency, do a broadcast interview (or any interview for that matter) without rigorous preparation. Here’s a few more tips:

  • When setting up a broadcast interview, whether reactively or pro-actively, find out all the details: Will it be live or pre-record, in the studio or at a different location, or if it is for radio, will it be on the phone? Who will the presenter be? Can you get the questions beforehand? How long will the interview last? Who else is being interviewed?
  • Do your research on the show, listen to interviews that particular presenter has done with other spokespeople, this will help you understand the nature of the show and how the interview might pan out. It will also help you target your messaging to their audience.
  • Have you seen your spokesperson in interview before? If not find out from them and others what their interview experience is, is there anything you need to know before putting them up?
  • Ask your spokesperson if they have any worries or concerns with the interview and make sure you address them beforehand.
  • Even if your spokesperson is an expert, brief them! Provide them with a short written brief outlining the purpose of the interview, three key messages, key stats, and where needed, example stories to bring the interview to life and don’t forget to provide them with a verbal brief.
  • Anticipate difficult questions and make sure you have your answers prepared.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Make time to sit down with your spokesperson and go through the interview, practice difficult questions as well as the straightforward questions.
  • Make sure your spokesperson has received media training, ideally specialist training. Claremont can help with this if you‘re not sure where to start.

Please do let us know any other tips you have, or if you’re interested in Claremont’s media training, email hello@claremontcomms.com