Nicky Campbell on interview techniques, media management strategy & his love of elephants…

This week we had the very exciting opportunity of hearing Nicky Campbell speak exclusively to us at the PR Fraternity! And I think I can speak for all of us when I say that he was the most honest, open and genuine expert from the industry we’ve ever met!

As most of you will know, Nicky broadcasts on BBC Radio 5’s breakfast show, where he mostly takes on the role of the interviewer. Before we talk about the all important interview technique Nicky taught us, as well as his views on social media, campaigning, media management and music as a PR tool, I thought I’d give you a bit of an insight into how Nicky’s day to day life as a broadcaster goes…

Firstly, for those of you that complain about your timetable, Nicky once flew there, and back, to New Zealand… IN ONE DAY! (Now that is busy!) However, despite his hectic schedule Nicky assured us that it’s actually crisis comms that keeps him ticking – it’s thrilling to be the one rolling out a story that has broken live the same morning. The advice that moving on once you become complacent is probably what makes the broadcaster so good at his job – you also have to leave your own personal thoughts and opinions at the door of the broadcast room (once you become biased, you become ineffective as an interviewer).

So, this is probably a good time to talk about Nicky’s wonderful advice he gave on how to undertake/respond to an interview, and the challenging questions that come with the process! (There’s a lot here, so grab a pen and paper!)

As the interviewer:

  1. It’s all about challenging people and getting the truth out.
  2. No one can attack something they truly believe in – all good journalists try to find a way to get a comment from both sides though!
  3. Have a professional side, but remember we’re all human!

As the interviewee:

  1. Don’t over plan answers – everyone can see through this!
  2. Being an interviewer, it can be hard to be on the receiving end – you can think you know what they’re asking you and what techniques they’re tying to use, but it can end up being a mind game and trip you up!

What Nicky also shared with us, that I really want you to all take on board, is how to cope with media management strategies. This technique is useful for personal PR, but not if it becomes transparent and is seen through! People would much rather be presented with a living, breathing human than anything else – after all, the first thing you think about in the morning we would all hope is your children, not your client account…(right?!)

“Affability can work wonders” – and its important to remember that.

We can see that Nicky practices what he preaches – for those of you that follow him on Twitter, you’ll know that he’s very interactive, and takes the care and time to get back to people, with no dedicated strategy (now that we admire). The ability to participate in two-way comms through the interesting forum is something Nicky loves, and an approach we should all invest in to accentuate our personal PR.

After discussing such a personal approach with Nicky, it’s no surprise that his views on campaigning are so strong and personalized too. Nicky’s passion rides with animal conservation – he loves animals and the advanced knowledge that can come from them, plus the emotional side – for example, I bet you didn’t know that elephants (your editor’s favourite animal!) actually cry, and have a bigger soul centre than we do! We’re losing 50,00 elephants in the wild a year, and the video below really, really highlights this (don’t be afraid to shed a tear!)

The more you try to shock people with the delivery, the more you push people away – using negative PR in the first instance won’t work, sadness makes people shy away from an issue  -turn it around with emotive success stories!

(These are great words from Nicky here, and ones that we’d all do well to remember – especially when we’re studying Aristotle’s PLE theory!)

On the PR side of things, we also discussed how music can be used in reputation & audience theory. We asked Nicky ‘Who would you say has the towering reputation of all time within the music industry?’ – His answer? The Beatles of course. From their music you can understand the movements of social change and progress, and they pioneered the way, creating global excitement around every single released. If we lock into this concept, we can see that it is really quite exciting! Interestingly, Nicky has a new cultural information system coming in from his teenage daughters, and this is something we should all value – music can be so diverse that it actually becomes a common interest!

After our insightful talk with Nicky, I wanted to just hone in on some of the qualities that make him the great broadcaster he is, and ones that we can all take away! It has been known for Nicky to call people back after being on air, because the interview has been so emotionally involved it’s important to follow up the issue – after all, it would all just be an artifice if we didn’t do this! So, the final thought I’d like to leave you with this time is…

“the more you are yourself, the better”




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