In our time conducting media training for national broadcasters, we thought we’d encountered every possible type of personality and demeanour. We’ve never seen anyone quite like ‘The Mooch’.
By Alex Hesketh, Shout! Communications
In just 10 days he’s whipped up a media storm so disruptive it’s blown him straight back out the White House’s revolving door. How can the most powerful man in communications be so lacking in simple broadcast interview awareness? We picked out his biggest mistakes (of which there were many) from his first (and only) appearance representing The White House on UK national television.
Not knowing who you’re talking to
“Have you been to a Bernie Sanders rally? Have you been to a Donald J. Trump rally?” Assumptions like this are unprofessional and smack of ignorance. Emily Maitlis is the political editor of Newsnight and one of the most senior political correspondents working for the BBC. She’s been to a Bernie Sanders rally. She’s been to a Donald J. Trump rally, Mooch.
Talking over your interviewer
In broadcast interviews there will often be a little back and forth, particularly in the political sphere, but The Mooch demonstrated one of the most infuriating qualities for a spokesperson: talking over the interviewer, and then accusing them of ‘not letting you finish’. Heated debates make for great broadcasting both on TV or radio, but accusing your interviewer of interrupting and not cooperating isn’t fair and comes across as overly argumentative and hypocritical.
‘You only ask the questions but you don’t answer the questions.’
Yes, Mooch, because that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Turning your own questions back onto the interviewer is a common deflection tactic in political correspondence, but one that should be used with caution. Asking superfluous and rhetorical questions, like “do you want a great trade deal?”, strikes of attempting to put words in mouths and directing the interview in a particular direction. Any credible journalist will quickly sniff this out and call you out for it.
‘Where I come from, we’re front-stabbers.’
Wherever you like to metaphorically stab someone, you don’t bring it up in a serious interview. It makes for the perfect soundbite or quote that can be easily taken out of context, even if you’re trying to make a reasonable point about trying to cut out the deceitful culture poisoning The White House. That goes for shooting, torturing, and any other unnecessarily violent imagery – stay well clear.
The personal space thing
Perhaps the most off-putting habit of them all – keep your hands to yourself. Even if we overlook the underlying sexism and ‘mansplaining’ involved here (let’s face it, it’s difficult to see him trying this with Krishnan Guru-Murthy), from a visual perspective it is just plain distracting. Viewers will be watching your wandering hands and not listening to your key messages, however good your answers are. And don’t ever, ever try to hug your interviewer. It’s uncomfortable and unprofessional in the extreme.
Forecasting your own sacking
“If he wants me to leave tomorrow, then I’m not going to be here to stay.” Unfortunate, perhaps, and this always looks worse in hindsight, but suggestions of distrust and a lack of confidence underline saying something like this. Scaramucci didn’t know he would be unceremoniously chucked so quickly, but a simple ‘yes, I’m here to stay’ would have sufficed.
To watch the interview in full, click here. For some more media training tips, check out our blog; ‘5 Media Training Lessons from the General Election’.
Images courtesy of BBC