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Phone calls: why you won’t be heard in the media

1 April 2021

Phone calls

If there’s one thing you should never do in your professional life, it’s to agree to a phone interview on the radio. It’s not the interview thats the problem. It’s the method of communication in your hands. In November 1967, the BBC’s first local radio station in Leicester pioneered the phone in: a cheap and cheerful way of filling airtime with listeners thoughts and ideas when operating on a shoestring budget.

Time has moved on since then and, more presciently, technology has moved on. The demands of DAB radio and sonic excellence mean there is absolutely no excuse for any corporate spokesperson to EVER do an interview on the phone. Use the phone, by all means, but not the phone bit of it. The clarity of sound through Zoom or FaceTime audio delivers two things: a ‘quality’ sound but more importantly, it means you can actually be heard. Sir Charles – let’s call him Farnsbarns – made no impact on my busy life while I was listening to 5Live – because I couldn’t actually hear him properly.

As a comms professional it is so much more difficult to advise your charges of the technical complexities if you are anxious about whether they will deliver the lines when the time comes. However, there’s another dimension that might persuade you to always plump for the best tech solution for an interview and that’s the ‘parasite effect’. News interviews for TV and radio do not simply exist within the framework of the programme that commissioned them: the demands of the 24/7 news ‘beast’ means material gets recycled and re-used as clips and across a range of channels and platforms.

News-gathering is news processing with much of what we see and hear re- aggregated by collators for their own constituencies. The modern broadcast journalists’ continuous quest for ‘quality’ material is driven by technical as well as editorial quality. If it sounds better it’s more likely to get repeated and re- hashed. Something scratchy and difficult to decode will probably be dismissed. Although, the desire to innovate to solve communication connections has been invented by the broadcasters, there’s an upside for your organisation if you think ahead. And don’t wait to be asked: if you suggest the idea, we’ll love you for it!