Category Archives: PR

PR and policy disaster of the week: ‘More Great Childcare’

As a journalist of some 16 years now I’ve had a wide variety of press releases pass my way. Some are good, some are bad, some a just a little bit boring. But occasionally us hacks get a press release that quite frankly insults our intelligence. Step forward the Department for Education with news of children’s minister Elizabeth Truss’s policy initiative to improve childcare, writes Joe Lepper.

Not the coverage Truss would have wanted

Not the coverage Truss would have wanted

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Top Five Embarrassing News Interviews Part Two: The Interviewers

I’ve already presented my favourite five clips of terrible interviewees. This time around I’ve focused on journalists, who from time to time  forget some key basics of their job, often with embarrassing consequences. In our list we have those who are guilty of not reading what is in front of them, being poorly prepared and in one case getting far too emotionally involved in an interview. Sit back and enjoy my favourite five terrible news presenting and interviewing moments.

5.The Jimmy Savile text

As soon as BBC Radio Ulster radio presenter Karen Patterson read out this text she should have known she’d fallen into a trap. Not really considering what she was reading she was taken in, hook, line and sinker by this cheeky texter, who makes light of the Jimmy Savile scandal. She comes back later to apologise but the damage was already done. A harsh lesson in the importance of reading what is in front of you properly.

4.Carrie Gracie earns how much?!?

The MP’s expenses scandal was huge, swathes of MPs claiming for erroneous costs to bump up their salaries. But when Carrie Gracie, one of BBC News channel’s presenters, tries to quiz Lord Foulkes about the issue she found herself on the wrong side of some difficult questions. After her questions about MPs salaries Lord  Foulkes decides to ask her, as an employee of a publicly funded organisation, how much she earns. The cornered Gracie reveals her quite frankly extraordinary salary of £92,000. Lord Foulkes is shocked, the audience is left shocked and most journalists are left green with envy as the real story of MPs fiddling expenses was forgotten and we were all left wondering whether Gracie was really worth £92,000 of our BBC licence fee money.

3.Paxman gets owned

Its rare that BBC Newsnight present Jeremy Paxman loses an argument but here he loses spectacularly. Paxman was poorly prepared here, quotes wrong figures and makes the assertion that public spending in Wales is the highest per population in the UK, without being able to back it up. His opponent here, Plaid Cymru’s economic adviser Eurfyl ap Gwilym, is able to flex his superior knowledge marvellously, forcing Paxman to dither with bits of paper as he frantically tries to prove his point. Paxman at one point in the exchange even tries to convince himself that London is not ‘officially’ in England as his turmoil worsens. The sight of Eurfyl ap Gwilym quite rightly asking Paxman to “do your homework” is one Paxman’s victims will cherish.

2.Mistaken identity

Guy Goma walked into BBC TV centre expecting to attend a job interview. But one wrong turn and a case of mistaken identity later he somehow found himself live on BBC News being interviewed about technology markets. Where the interviewer really falls down is that she seems to bat away his attempt to explain his predicament and just excepts his understandably lame answers. Among the best moments are when the next journalist paraphrases this job applicant, as if what he has said has any relevance, and the look on Goma’s face when he realises he is live on air.

1.Adam Boulton v Alistair Campbell

This is one of my all time favourite journalistic blunders and shows how even the most experience broadcaster can lose it under pressure. There’s clearly bad blood between Sky’s Adam Boulton and Alistair Campbell, former Number 10 director of communications and Mirror journalist. Campbell milks Boulton’s hatred for him wonderfully, goading the Sky man who foolishly rises to every jibe. Boulton looks like he is fully prepared to lamp Campbell at more than one point. There’s a wonderful sense of beauty as his colleague leaves them to it and the camera moves away with the high pitched Boulton continuing his failed, child-like battle with a master windup merchant.

Compiled by Joe Lepper

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Top Five Embarrassing News Interviews Part One: The Interviewees

As a media trained journalist I have some basic skills in being an interviewee. During my training I dutifully remembered my key messages, never looked into the camera and tried to avoid sudden movements. It’s tough but nothing an experienced politician can’t handle, right? Well, think again. Here’s five of  my favourite clips of politicians failing spectacularly at other basic interview skills such as answering a simple question, remembering not to insult the interviewer and knowing what your policies are.

5. Jeffrey Archer – “You wait until I’m Mayor”

Blast from the past time time from 2000 as London Mayoral candidate Jeffrey Archer shows his true colours to interviewer Michael Crick. “You wait until I’m Mayor,” he sinisterly says to Crick, unaware that both the mic and camera are on. Sadly, for Archer he was never able to cast Crick as a fly in his evil political web. Instead he had to withdraw from the mayoral race as allegations emerged he had lied in a 1987 libel case. By 2001 Crick would be even further from harm, as Archer  began a four year jail term for perjury. “You wait until I’m mopping out a prison toilet,” doesn’t have quite the same resonance.

4. Grant Shapps – Diversion fail

Using the interview equivalent of saying “ooh, look over there” and then running away, UK housing minister Grant Shapps decides to divert BBC Radio 4 Today interviewer John Humphrys away from questions about the poor state of UK  house building by starting a petty argument over whether or not he had turned down a previous interview request. Humphrys steers him back after an excruciating two minutes of  argument, by which point the only case Shapps could realistically put forward was for a reshuffle to the ministry of lost causes.

3. Bill Shorten – The politician with no opinion

Australian Labor Party politician Bill Shorten has a whole bunch of titles to his name. He’s minister for  employment and workplace relations as well as minister for financial services and superannuation. He must be a pretty shrewd political heavyweight, right? Well, not exactly. When asked about a sexual harassment case involving the speaker of the Australian House of Representatives he thought it perfectly reasonable to say that whatever the PM’s view is he agrees with it, without even knowing what her view is. My favourite part is his claim that being asked for his opinion on this very specific subject “was too broad” a question.

2. Michael Howard – His notorious Paxman interview

In what has become one of the most notoriously bad interviews ever by a politician former Home Secretary Michael Howard fails to answer the same question (relating to a conversation with prison service head Derek Lewis) an embarrassing 12 times.  It’s a painful joy to behold watching Howard desperately try to ignore the “threaten” part of BBC Newsnight interviewer Jeremy Paxman’s question “did you threaten to overrule him (Lewis)?

1. Chloe Smith – Hapless in excelsior.

Treasury minister Chloe Smith seems to have forgotten that she is a public representative and that the voters who elected her have a right to know about government policy and why decisions are made. Thinking that it is good enough to answer serious questions about fuel duty by simply describing her job was never going to get past BBC Newsnight’s Jeremy Paxman. She ends up looking like someone who either doesn’t care or is simply not in the loop. Never has the word “hapless” been so accurate in describing a government minister’s performance on TV. Her humiliation begins at around the six minute mark in this clip.

See Also: Top five Embarrassing News Interviews Part Two: The Interviewers

compiled by Joe Lepper

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View from the top: Piers Morgan on the value of PR

Originally published PRWeek, Nov 12, 2002.
Daily Mirror Editor Piers Morgan talks to Joe Lepper about celebrity and politics
Almost a year since Piers Morgan’s last appearance in PRWeek when he bought a full-page ad to hammer home his latest message in his war on celebrity PR (PRWeek, 30 November 2001,), his relationship with the sector has, on the face of it, declined further. Continue reading

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