Saturday, 10 September 2016

Coups and Gaffes

Interesting times at TRTWorld. The Turkish Radio and Television company is based in Ankara and Istanbul but in its wisdom has hired me to launch its London operation. This is now duly underway - if you have any interest in seeing what an English-speaking Turkish channel looks and sounds like, check out trtworld,com/live - it can only be watched online as it currently only broadcasts in Turkey.

Except it very nearly ended altogether a few weeks ago, when army rebels launched a coup attempt in Turkey. Armed men swarmed into the TRT headquarters in Ankara, held up my colleagues at gun-point and forced a fellow anchor to read a statement on air claiming they had taken control of the country.

As I said, interesting times.

Of course we now know the coup failed, and Turkish president Reccep Tayyipp Erdogan is busily and thoroughly cleansing every part of Turkey of those connected to the coup plotters. But as the situation unfolded, it was very unsettling to know my colleagues were going through this experience. Thankfully no-one was hurt.

Do you know who this man is? No, neither did I until recently. This is the Libertarian party's US presidential nominee, Gary Johnson. A man who made headlines with an astonishing gaffe during a live TV interview in which he asked the question "What is Aleppo?"

The MSNBC anchor gaped in disbelief and stuttered "You're kidding!" to which the hapless Mr Johnson replied, "No."

Needless to say, this quickly started trending on social media worldwide as #WhatIsAleppo, and Johnson is now doing some fancy footwork to limit the damage. Meanwhile his media advisor is off somewhere having a breakdown.

Johnson broke one of the cardinal rules of media training - something my company Aero Productions Ltd teaches to company directors and anyone else who has to deal with the media. And that is: Always Be Prepared. 

When you're asked to do an interview, you will almost certainly not be given the questions in advance. As a journalist, I know how much reporters hate doing that. But it's fine to ask what ground the interview will cover. And even if you're caught on the hop, a good media trainer will coach you on how to answer unexpected questions. Even better, you'll be taught how to deal with subjects you're genuinely unsure about. With practice, you'll be able to flip a question to your advantage, and look cool and polished while you do it.

My rates are very reasonable Mr Johnson, and I do like Washington at this time of year!

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