Long before the age of TV news, a perceptive poet wrote about the challenge of keeping your head when all about you are losing theirs – and blaming it on you!
The poem was written around 1895.
And if, in 2023 or beyond, you ever end up in the media spotlight, there’s much to be said for following Rudyard Kipling’s guidance.
This is because, now more than ever, reputations are being made – and sometimes shredded – based on how people behave when they’re suddenly the focus of media attention.
This is particularly evident, at the moment, with media coverage of actions aimed at highlighting the dangers of climate change – and what should, or should not, be done to combat them.
Let’s look at the latest controversial protest by Greenpeace activists who climbed onto the Yorkshire home of British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak.
The protestors did so to draw attention to the Sunak Government’s decision to announce hundreds of new licenses for extracting more oil and gas from the North Sea – regarding this as something that will exacerbate climate change.
After using ladders and climbing ropes to help occupy the prime ministerial roof, the protestors draped much of his home in black cloth.
When they climbed down the activists were arrested by officers from North Yorkshire Police.
Whether you approve or condemn what the protestors did, it’s fair to assume that – knowing they would be appearing on TV around the world – the activists deliberately kept calm as they executed their plan.
In fact, everyone in this following report by Sky News managed to show verbal restraint – including Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, the police, the security expert and Sky News reporter, Greg Milam.
But this was not the case for the belligerent TV ‘reporter’ from Britain’s tabloid GB News Channel – an organisation based on parading the views of its own team rather than providing anything approaching objective, balanced news.
Acting in sharp contrast to the way conventional TV journalists behave in front of their own cameras, Ben Leo responded to the Greenpeace incursion onto the Prime Minister’s property by launching his own ‘invasion’ of the Greenpeace London headquarters.
Uninvited, he roamed around the Greenpeace offices seeking to quiz their activists and office workers about their organisation’s protest.
The Greenpeace office workers responded by demonstrating considerable grace under pressure.
Some declined to engage at all with reporter – treating him with silent disdain.
Two more senior Greenpeace representatives did take part in interviews with Ben Leo, while making it clear on camera that these had not been arranged in the normal manner.
Watch the way they kept remarkably composed under pressure while getting across as much of their case as they were allowed.
By showing restraint, they managed to underline the GB News man’s lack of good manners and fairness.
You can check out the GB News coverage here:
The overall result of this piece of cooked up TV news drama is, in my view:
GB News -1
Feel free to email me your assessment!
Meanwhile, as environmental protestors are increasingly targeting high profile sporting events to make their point, cricketers from England and Australia managed to respond in a very direct way during the just-completed Ashes series.
Most notable was the England wicket-keeper, Jonny Bairstow, who kept his cool (kind of) while carrying a protestor from “Just Stop Oil” off the field at Lords after catching him spreading orange powder-paint, as you can see here:
This direct action was potentially risky, but Jonny Bairstow emerged with a degree of admiration for his approach – from cricket spectators and members of the wider cricket-loving public.
But if you’re ever faced with the option of making a direct on-camera response, do think carefully before you leap into action!
My advice is that if you or your organisation end up in the media spotlight, act in a way which – when reviewing the TV coverage later – you can be proud of how you come across.
If you know that media attention in your sphere is likely – and your organisation has a point that needs to be made – check out media interview response training at:
Whether you’re destined to be an active participant – or a bystander – in any newsworthy situation, quality media training will urge you to put Rudyard Kipling’s advice at the heart of your approach.
So always strive to:
“Keep your head when all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you.”
Keep smiling – and keep your head…as well as your reputation!
If you would like to check out the full and wide-ranging Kipling “If” guidance, there’s a full rendition of the poem here – read beautifully by American actor Morgan Freeman: