2010-12-06 20:44:46Tips to prepare an interview with the press
John Cook


Some great tips at http://lgmacweb.env.uea.ac.uk/lequere/communication/press.html - I just know I would forget where this page was if I don't leave a reminder for myself, hence this post:

Here are some tips I have recently amassed, partly through the excellent training session given by the UEA press office.

Think before hand about these:

  • who, what, when, where, why, how, how much.
  • what would someone like to know that they think you ought to know
  • work on your explanations before hand
  • prepare facts, but not too many
  • go to an interview thinking "what do I want to say", have an ambition
  • prepare sound bites ("my message today to people who ___ is")
  • finally, - prepare a 20 second summary -
  • stories are mostly negative, good to find a positive outcome (keep the happiness and despair budget in balance)
  • do a mental warm up
In general:
  • keep your sense of humour
  • relax and be positive
  • you are speaking directly to the public (the journalist is transparent)
  • asking aggressive questions invites dynamic answers (this is why journalists do this)
  • be conscious of what you are doing and how people might perceive you
During the interview:
  • use short answers, it is more difficult to be mis-quoted
  • simplify the answers
  • use simple words (precipitation -> rain; atmosphere -> air)
  • "for example" is good
  • say "people" and "you"
  • avoid "there are X options (you may get lost)"
  • use "the so called ___ (e.g. feedbacks)" when using jargon
  • acknowledge the question and make a little bridge "but look" ... and give your message
  • do not speak on behalf of a third party. Use instead: "you need to ask the experts for that, but I can tell you from my experience with ____ that ___."
  • use "if you are listening to me now and you want to ____ do ____. "
  • on the phone, stand up
  • on tv, keep your head still, look at the interviewer, be a bit boring with clothes
2010-12-06 20:48:03
Rob Painting
Are you being groomed for something John?.
2010-12-06 21:12:38Nothing in particular
John Cook


I just happened to be looking at Corinne Le Quéré's website as she just provided comments on the Guide and she had this page about interviews. I've done a few interviews lately and don't feel I've done a particularly good job at any of them - I umm a lot, I ramble and things never seem to come out with the clarity I can muster in a well honed blog post. So I'm always keen to improve my technique, just in case.

The regular Climate Show interviews are proving good practice too :-)

2011-01-12 10:00:07Tips for TV interviews
John Cook


A climate scientist I know went on, yes, Fox Business News. Now that's a tough crowd! Here's his advice from the experience:

I went over to a Fox studio yesterday to be on their Business News show "Follow the Money." Due to technical difficulties, I (the "expert") was completely shut out of the show and the host and panel spent the time yelling at each other. Complete disaster. I'm not even sure they aired it.

However, they were hugely embarrassed, called me and emailed me, and pleaded with me to come back on.

I had a phone conversation with the host of the show this morning, and we went over the key issues: science versus policy; climate versus weather; stop maligning scientists and focus on policy, etc.
It was a civil conversation, and so I agreed to go back on the show today.

I just returned from the studio: the interview went far, far better and real information (I think) was exchanged. I was able to make the points, relatively unchallenged, that the science is really strong; that cold winters don't mean the climate isn't changing and in fact, it is (etc. etc), that climate scientists value their independence, that the impacts of climate are going to be bad; that it is time to talk policy; and that the data clear show the planet warming. There was far more "discussion" and far less posturing and yelling this time.

It may be a relatively small audience; but I think this played out well. And I think there ought to be more effort to speak to this audience. One important trick: see if you can talk to the HOST for five minutes by phone before hand, not just some staffer feeding questions. Get clear what the focus should be. It helps them, and it helps the science message.