Skip to main content


General elections and broadcast gaffes – a PR media training minefield 

When faced with the prospect of a broadcast interview on television or radio, most people can feel nervous. As PRs we’re often asked “what if I mess up?. Our answer? Media training.    

We believe that with the right preparation anyone can give a confident, informative broadcast interview. Our media training sessions cover a range of topics, from message delivery to dealing with ‘killer questions’ – and even which camera to look at.  

However, one of the best ways to learn about interview techniques is to watch others and identify what makes a good answer. The general election is the perfect opportunity for this – to see who is unshakeable and who crumbles beneath the pressure. That’s why we’ve decided to examine some of the most memorable political interview gaffes of recent years and see what media training tips we can pick up.  

  1. Remembering when you’re live on air with Gordon Brown.

Some interviews are live, some are pre-recorded and we recommend always knowing which type you are participating in, otherwise you could end up having an embarrassing moment. Gordon Brown discovered this to his detriment in 2010, with his infamous ‘bigoted woman’ comment, not realising that he was still wired up to Sky News. The comment was picked up and broadcast across all stations. Critics later commented this gaffe ‘torpedoed’ his election campaign.  

Pearl of wisdom: have a clear understanding of the interview format. Is it live? Is it pre-recorded? Your PR team can help. 

  1. Remaining professional with Jeremy Hunt. 

 Looking like an expert requires appearing calm and collected throughout the interview, even when being asked probing questions. This unphased demeanour will inspire confidence in the listener and give off an air of authority – unlike earlier this year when Jeremy Hunt lost his cool with BBC Radio 4 broadcaster, Amol Rajan. Accusing the presenter of misleading listeners about the state of the economy, Hunt also called Amol ‘unworthy’ during a heated exchange.  

Pearl of wisdom: personal attacks are never the way to go. Good training can help you keep on topic and remain cool under fire. 

  1. Keeping to your line of expertise with Ed Davey.

 It’s vital to understand the subject matter of an interview before agreeing to it. For example, if you’re an expert in sustainable materials on building sites, don’t agree to an interview about changes to tax law. Media training is a tool to elevate expertise you already have – not make you an expert on subjects you know nothing about, as Ed Davey found out recently when he encountered paddleboarding and the cold water of Lake Windemere in a viral online moment. 

Pearl of wisdom: agree to interviews that are within your expertise – this will help you to land key messages and positively boost your business’ profile. 

  1. Preparing for ‘killer questions’ with Liz Truss. 

An interviewer’s job is to ask the tough questions. Media training can help you feel more prepared by considering tough topics that could come up and preparing messaging in advance. In 2019, Liz Truss found that she was unprepared for some tough questioning. When asked how many starter homes had been delivered, she was unable to answer, and embarrassed to be told that the number was ‘zero’. The clip resurfaced during her leadership campaign in 2022, demonstrating again that once something goes online, it stays there. 

Pearl of wisdom: consider what ‘difficult’ topics might come up in advance to ensure you can remain on message and bring the interview back under control. 

  1. Stay on brand message with Emily Thornberry. 

Not knowing your company’s brand messaging or point of view on a topic can cause embarrassment. At best, you may get a ribbing from colleagues and at worst your company may have to make a public statement correcting your comments. Emily Thornberry found this out when she admitted in a recent television interview that a levy on private school fees could increase state school class sizes. She was immediately criticised and corrected by shadow education secretary, Bridget Philipson, who said that she would be “having a word with her colleague.” 

Pearl of wisdom: while interviews are an opportunity to raise your personal profile and give your opinions, it’s vital to have a good understanding of your company’s position to save yourself from embarrassment.  

With a few weeks to go until the general election, we’re sure more gaffes will pop up. If you want to avoid these in your own interviews, have a chat with our team about media training opportunities today.  


Leave a Reply