Unless you have been out of town for the past week, you are probably well aware of the traffic problems created by the extension of the LRT. The consequences of the disconnect between how things were supposed to work and how they were actually working have been well-documented in reports from our city’s media outlets.
More interesting for me than the traffic tie-ups was how the city responded to the outrage of people who had to wait upwards of 20 minutes to continue along 51 Ave. I listened to two spokespeople for Edmonton Transit talk on the radio at different times. It was like listening to two people from entirely different planets.
The first speaker sounded like he had been defibrillated just before doing the interview and was in need of another shock from the paddles to keep him going. He sounded bored with the questions from the interviewer and showed no enthusiasm for explaining what was going on. He also never really acknowledged that people had the right to be upset. Instead, he concentrated on the technology and how it was supposed to work. I think I am a pretty bright guy, but the message he had about “cycles” went right on by me.
Contrast that to the interview with Bob Boutillier, the city’s transportation manager. Throughout the interview, he acknowledged that motorists had the right to be upset and that what the transit department had done to date just wasn’t good enough. He sounded sincere, concerned and committed to fixing the problem as quickly as possible. His primary focus was not on the failure of the technology, but how the failure of the technology was affecting people in an adverse way.
If I were still doing media training, I would be tempted to use these two radio interviews as examples of good and bad ways of doing an interview.
In Edmonton, it seems like anyone and everyone can speak for the city. That is somewhat strange and the advisability of that is open to debate. However, if our city mavens are going to let that happen, they might be well-advised to ensure that anyone who speaks has had some media training.
Media training isn’t about spin and booga booga. It’s about being able to answer questions and place messages in such a way that people can understand an issue and what your position is.
Terence Harding is a corporate communicator. He’s a keen observer of all things Edmonton; firstname.lastname@example.org.