Ed Milliband tells us as it is – five times in a row

Ed Milliband tells us as it is – five times in a row

In a recorded interview for the BBC about a day of public-sector strikes last week, Ed Milliband gave exactly the same answer five times in a row. So keen was he to make sure that his prepared soundbite was the only piece of the interview that the journalist could possibly use, that he abandoned any attempt to address the questions put to him. But what happens when the entire interview is posted on YouTube? Public humiliation.

It’s a classic case of being over-trained. For years, some media and PR strategists have told their clients that a recorded interview is an opportunity to deliver one key message really well – and that you should carry on repeating that message whatever the question.

But there’s a huge danger in that – and not just the YouTube danger. There’s nothing that upsets journalists and the public more than a politician who refuses to address the question. It makes the politician look untrustworthy and slippery. Remember Michael Howard? He failed to address a question Jeremy Paxman put to him 14 times in a row. That was in the mid-90s, and Howard is still remembered for it.

To succeed in today’s media environment, politicians have to come across, above all else, as warm, decent human beings. By all means try to communicate your soundbite as well as possible. By all means try to repeat it, within reason. But don’t ever give the impression of being slavishly devoted to it, and so transparently desperate to exert total authority over the journalist’s editorial judgment.

Article date

July 4th, 2011

Robert Taylor

Media Trainer


My main passion is media training, and I’m proud to be one of the UK’s most experienced and successful trainers in this field.

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