I have just read Billy Connolly’s autobiography, Windswept and Interesting. It’s an enjoyable read and I’d certainly recommend it if you’re a fan. One of the devices The Big Yin uses in the book is to ‘bullet-point’ his rules for life. In one such list, he advises readers to: ‘Say the first thing that comes into your mind and don’t worry about what might happen to you as a result.’
We certainly could NOT advise anyone working with the media to heed such advice. On the contrary, it’s advisable to think carefully about what you are going to say to the media (it will ostensibly but for publication and public consumption), and how they and other people are likely to react to your comments. What further questions it is likely to prompt and where that conversation might lead you?
This is not to say that ‘the first thing that comes into your head’ will be wrong. It may be exactly the right position to take, but it is important to have thought it through first. This is only common sense really. Part of a journalist’s job is to challenge your views. If you express an opinion, you need to understand and be able to articulate why you are taking that position. You need to show that you have thought about it and reached a conclusion that is both logical and rational.
In practical terms, if you are going to be talking to channel press, we’d always advise you to set time aside in advance to prepare. You should consider which topics you think are important right now, and the messages you want to get across. You should also think about the areas the journalist might want to cover, the questions they might ask and how you would respond. What those responses will look like in print – and what kind of reaction you ae likely to get. Being ‘windswept and interesting’ may have worked for Billy Connolly. It’s not appropriate for senior channel execs.