There’s nothing the media likes more than a good row. As we explain during our media training courses, confrontation, trouble, and argument is meat and drink to the media. And, when it relates directly to the public on a very human level, that debate is more attractive.
Even more so, there’s also a great regional angle here. One of the things that a journalist will consider when looking at research or trends is whether something is better or worse in the north or the south. Certainly, regional variations in coronavirus regulations have added to the controversy.
Little surprise then, that the media is full of stories about confusion over the law in relation to lockdown. Can you buy sanitary protection in Wales? How can people visit their loved ones in care homes? How many people can attend a wedding or a funeral? We can’t provide answers to all these questions but we can advise anyone involved in these issues on how to handle them.
As the leading specialist media training consultancy for law firms, we’re also helping lawyers when they’re invited by the media to provide advice and guidance on these regulations. We worked with a firm last week to help one of their lawyers appear on a TV news programme to provide advice to firms and individuals on what they can and can’t do in lockdown 2. We helped our client to hone their messages and to develop some examples and cases.
Journalists are always looking for examples. One of the most important elements of preparation before any media interview is to identify and develop some stories and case studies. Here it was a mix of real-life cases and decisions as well as hypotheticals.
We also looked at the difficult and controversial areas that our lawyer could have been dragged into. The interviewer would have loved then to criticise the government, for instance, to get drawn into particular controversies or to speculate on how things might develop. However, this could have been an embarrassing and even career shortening experience for our client and so we gave them some simple tactics to enable them to avoid these difficult areas and to move back to their key messages.
Maintaining control over a media interview and taking the initiative is easier than many people think. The assumption is often that the journalist should be in the driving seat – after all, it’s their show (quite literally, sometimes), isn’t it? But the point is that they’re not the expert and you, as the lawyer, are. Very often journalists actually like it when the interviewee makes the running – it takes the pressure off us. In the case of this particular subject with all of its detail and complications, having the interviewee take the initiative is particularly welcome.
During our media training workshops for lawyers we emphasise that whether it’s a print or broadcast interview, the journalist is focused on the audience and, in particular, they’re looking to answer one simple question: what’s in it for me? Whatever the medium and whatever the subject, the more effectively the interviewee can answer this question, the happier the journalist will be. That’s because the audience is happy.
So, when you’re preparing for an interview with your PR advisors or your in-house comms team, think about some useful, practical takeaways that you can include in your answers. Lockdown aside, we help lawyers to prepare for interviews about all kinds of difficult subjects from ethical investing and employment law to asset management and planning regulations.
Whatever the issue, we advise them to offer a few little tips and some general thoughts that are relevant and useful for their audience. You don’t need to say too much, you just need to show that you’re knowledgeable and that you have practical experience of the issue.
The idea is that if your audience wants to know more then they’ll have to get in touch and retain you.
Chat to Communicate Media
As lockdown drags on the questions about what is permitted will also continue, as will the political debate around it. The opportunities, therefore, for lawyers to offer advice and the risks of them saying something controversial will also continue. However, with effective media training and thorough preparation lawyers can provide advice as well as subtly promoting their services.