The Spokesperson Who Repeated Her Message 27 Times

You need to prepare messages before any media interview.

That’s obvious, right?

But what happens if you’re in the heat of an interview, the interviewer asks you a direct question, and your messages are no longer sufficient to help you answer the question credibly?

Should you stick with your talking points anyway, or should you make a quick decision to abandon your talking points in an effort to answer the question while maintaining your credibility with the audience?

Hopefully that’s a false choice. As you’ll see in the video below, most of these questions could and should have been anticipated and prepared for prior to the interview.

A sharp reader sent in this interview about a Canadian oil pipeline which appeared on Canada’s CBC earlier this month. The two guests were John Bennett, the executive director of Canada’s Sierra Club, and Kathryn Marshall, a public relations representative with a small nonprofit called Ethical Oil.

(It’s a long clip, but worth watching as a great example of what not to do in an interview)

In just eight minutes, Ms. Marshall said the words “foreign” or “foreign special interests” a whopping 27 times.

I’ve never seen quite that much repetition in an interview before, at least not delivered with such a lack of dexterity. For those of you counting, she also said “hijack” seven times and “puppet groups” four.

Even more problematically, she refused to answer a direct question that inquired whether the company building the pipeline, Enbridge, was providing her group with funding. She dismissed that entirely reasonable question as a “conspiracy theory,” making viewers wonder why a straightforward question about funding was the province of conspiracy theorists. With every subsequent dodge, Ms. Marshall succeeded only in shedding more of her credibility.

I’ve written before about why it’s a bad idea to repeatedly deliver the same message in the exact same way (see here and here). How could she have delivered the same message more effectively? This messaging series would have helped her.

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