ITV’s This Morning programme managed a royal coup today as Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby interviewed the Duchess of Cambridge about a community project that she is promoting called Hold Still. The idea is that members of the public submit photographs that capture the mood of the nation during the current crisis.
Kate is a keen amateur photographer, as we know, earning considerable praise for many of her pictures. But how did she do as an interviewee?
She has a natural warmth as well as being, how shall I put this? Clearly posh, we might say, and this is the perfect mix for a modern royal.
The background with its neutral colours and bright, optimistic lighting along with Kate’s spring-like, yellow, floral dress worked very well. If I’d been arranging the set, though, I would have put some flowers and a photograph of the family in the background rather than a door and half of a print.
One of the most common mistakes during a Zoom or Skype media interview is to have the camera set too low so that you’re looking down at your audience, displaying your nostrils. Kate manages to avoid this.
However, she could just have maintained more consistent eye contact with the camera. Speaking to the glassy eye of the lens isn’t natural but it’s important just to keep looking in that direction. You can move your head, smile and use your hands in a relaxed way, but just keep that eyeline.
Her first answer is friendly and establishes empathy with the audience. She is managing OK, she says, despite the challenges, adding:
“I’m sure you’re experiencing the same yourself with your family. We’re stuck into home schooling again but yes, they’re unprecedented times.”
It’s a lovely reply, building empathy with the audience. Kate might be royal but she’s also the mother of three young children during lockdown.
I would suggest, though, that she could just have had her first answer better rehearsed. We always advise people during our media training courses to be all ready to roll with your answer to the first question. Have a good sense of what you want to say and you’ll grab the audience – and build your confidence as you get off to a good start. Think of a memorable phrase or a little anecdote. It’s a good idea to rehearse this answer, as it is with all of your replies.
We did have a mention here of what sounded like a nice little anecdote.
“George gets very upset because he just wants to do all of Charlotte’s projects. Spider sandwiches are far cooler than literacy work,” she laughed.
This has been picked up extensively by the media but perhaps we could hear more about it?
Kate gives a lovely introduction to the Hold Still project and what it entails. Her phrase, “It’s about a moment in time that we’re all experiencing,” sums up the event nicely. The presenters mention some images from the collection such as the intensive care nurse from Nottingham whose face is red and sore from wearing PPE and again HRH picks up on this, talking about it being “a harrowing image,” and the project as a whole providing “An opportunity for those on the frontline to showcase what they’re experiencing.” This is a good, strong call to action.
As we view more images there are some other lovely phrases such as “it’s about kindness,” and “we want to hear from everyone and anyone.”
I got the impression during this interview that the duchess warmed up a bit, getting into her stride and offering more to the interviewees. This is very common, we find, during media training and it really shows the value of a rehearsal ahead of time so that you can get into the media interview zone up before you go on.
She takes more of the initiative, with longer, more content rich answers, explaining at one point:
“What I was really drawn to was people and telling the human side, because we’re all connected to this at a personal level or a community level. Being able to showcase portraits, I suppose, and paint a portrait of the nation at this difficult time is what really inspired me to try and connect everyone on a human level and share our experiences.”
It’s a lovely idea, expressed really well. I would just like to have heard it earlier on.
Again, asked about her own photography, Kate is much more forthcoming, mixing modesty with some inspiring thoughts.
“One of the fantastic things about photography is capturing that moment. It’s not about stage setting or setting it up perfectly. [It’s about] those moments that feel real to you when you can capture a moment and tell a story.”
The language is natural and heartfelt.
Her story about Prince Louis’s face painting with the line “I should have taken a photograph of what I looked like after that, as well,” and genuine laugh was great. In a change of mood, she’s then asked about her project photographing Holocaust survivors. Here too the language is lovely: “I wanted to create one image to tell a story,” she explains, but an anecdote would really bring the idea to life and make it more memorable.
She then brings the conversation back to the Stand Still project, adding that it’s a chance to “Reflect on a moment in time,” and to “Encourage people to stop and think about this time that we’re going through and tell the story.”
The final, jokey exchange between the interviewees and the duchess is natural, engaging and warm – as indeed is the whole interview. It just needed a few more stories and anecdotes. Some homework for you, perhaps, your royal highness, to get on with during that home schooling.