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Politicians and the media – an ever-changing relationship

John Humphreys

11th January 2017 – Radio 4’s Today Programme featured a segment with its presenter and award-winning broadcaster John Humphry’s reflecting on the ever-changing relationship between politicians, the media and ultimately the public!. Part of this shift, Humphrys claims, can be attributed to the way that politicians communicate with us.

Marking 30 years of sometimes tense, sometimes lively (and always entertaining interviews), Humphrys recounts how some of the politicians interviewed have bought something a little different to the table.

So what was their approach?

From the unpredictable and unorganised nature of Thatcher’s interviews, through to the very controlled and sometimes almost ‘closed book’ nature of May’s, here’s a whistle-stop tour…

Reminiscing about a first interview with Thatcher, Humphrys cites how he (and everyone else) never really knew what to expect from this notoriously ‘unspun’ Prime Minister. Unlike future politicians with their army of spin doctors, Thatcher was relatively unrehearsed, even known to delve into theology – including why we were put on the earth. In fact, Thatcher’s chief press secretary, Bernard Ingham later admitted that he once only knew about an important radio interview with Thatcher as he drove to work causing him to nearly drive off the world – can you imagine this happening today?!

Humphrys then gives a quick tour through the times of Major, Blair and Cameron – each with very different methods of communication, showing the power of the spin team kicking in, especially in Blair’s time. The full interview can be listened to on the Radio 4 website.

It was Cameron that stood out from the three in terms of his approach. Cameron wanted to appeal to the people, ultimately putting, some would say, too much power in the people’s hands. This ultimately resulted in his resignation as many of us know as he (and all other major party leaders) told us we should stay in the EU, something that we ultimately voted against. So from this, do we learn that it’s right to keep cards close to the chest?

Fast forward to our current Prime Minister, Theresa May. In stark contrast to Thatcher and in some instances Cameron, May is almost ‘a closed book’. For example, May provides no running commentary on Brexit negotiations and has sometimes been attacked for keeping her true thoughts to herself. According to the Independent, even the Queen is said to be ‘frustrated with May over her ‘secrecy’ regarding deal negotiations.’

Are we yet to see a good example of the perfect and consistent union between politicians and the media? By listening to Humphrys this morning, it seems like striking the right note is still to happen. Yet we live in an ever-changing world where trust, transparency, authority and confidence are more important than ever – the powers that be can be asked to comment at the drop of a hat, so the approach has to be robust.  This doesn’t just apply to politicians; it applies to all services, suppliers, brands etc.

At Cirkle, we understand that this is a challenging time for many of our clients and they need to establish and perfect their communication with the media  When negative stories can catch fire in seconds, corporate and brand reputation have never been more important. ‘Media Proofed’, with its fully functioning Broadcast Studio and seasoned broadcast media trainers (all based in our office premises), enables clients to experience the lights, camera, action and interview of an authentic TV and Radio studio environment. We prepare clients to expect the unexpected … for when things go wrong (and when they go right), ensuring they become authoritative, engaging and credible spokespeople.

With Media Proofed, our teams ensure you are ready for even a ‘John Humphry’s interview’.

Clare Wildman
Senior Account Manager

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