Being interviewed: can you afford to be emotional?
25 February 2021
Emotion v fact. It’s at the heart of all media appearance. How do you balance the ‘real world’ emotion of a story with the undeniable facts that sometimes don’t necessarily help your position.
This was brilliantly exemplified in a very heated discussion about ‘no jab no job’ and if it was a legal or a medical imperative, on Radio 2’s ‘Jeremy Vine’ programme. On the one side: the owner of a plumbing business who insisted that all new staff would need certification of the vaccine in order to work for him. The logic based on reassurance to customers and the moral responsibility he should have.
On the other: a lawyer who pointed out that this employment position did not exist in law – and was only a device to protect his business from future prosecution if customers caught the virus. Both compelling arguments and, on any other day, could have each become the defining position. But there was only one ‘winner’ of the debate and, despite his heartfelt remonstrations, the business owner made one fatal mistake. He attempted to personalise the debate and tried and pin the decision-making process on his opponent.
It wasn’t that he was particularly pugnacious, however he slipped from a position of authority to ‘losing’ by his emotive pedantry and inability to recognise that his responsibility in a media interview is not to the reporter or even others involved in the discussion. His role should be to influence and persuade the audience. They are the ones to whom you should be directly delivering your narrative. They are the ones who will, ultimately, decide whether to follow your advice/opinion/position or to ignore it.
Scoring cheap debating points in an eristic way signals you may have lost the argument. Keep focused on who really matters, respect your opponent’s point of view – but, in the end, be selfish with your own position and use the facts – and maybe just a touch of emotion – to drive your point home.