The British media have been in a frenzy following news that high profile morning commercial TV presenter Phillip Schofield has lost his job.
The presenter had to leave his role as co-presenter of ITV’s This Morning programme after having consistently lied about – before eventually admitting to – an affair with a much younger male colleague who he’d introduced to the production team after first meeting as a schoolboy.
From a communications perspective, this complex story has reinforced the truism that when interviewees have a clear, credible, properly-thought-out central message, they tend to do well in the media coverage they receive.
Conversely, those who don’t have such a message come across less favourably.
Amidst the Schofield storm, one person has effectively demonstrated the virtue of having a powerful well-thought-through central message.
She’s the mother of another ITV presenter who lost a high-profile role after a rapid fall from grace.
This is Christine Flack whose daughter – Caroline Flack – fronted ITV’s Love Island programme until she stood down after being investigated over allegedly assaulting her boyfriend.
A Coroner later ruled that Caroline Flack had then taken her own life – a day after learning that prosecutors were going to press ahead with an assault charge against her.
Christine Flack had a clear, powerful and well-thought-out message about her daughter’s death when interviewed on the BBC in the aftermath of the Phillip Schofield story.
She took aim at ITV which was the employer of both her daughter – and of Phillip Schofield.
Christine Flack accused the company of not giving its stars enough support when they became enmeshed in public controversy.
She alleged that ITV has failed to learn lessons from the death of her daughter, claiming that the company treats its stars like commodities rather than as people.
Here’s an excerpt of what Christine Flack told BBC’s Newsnight:
One of the reasons the tragic story of Caroline Flack is back in the news is because Phillip Schofield mentioned her in his opening answer of the in-depth interview he’s done with the BBC.
To underline how he was personally coping in the wake of immense public criticism, Phillip Schofield dramatically claimed:
“I think I understand how Caroline Flack felt!”
By doing so he signalled that he’s become so devastated that he’s been feeling suicidal.
And while Phillip Schofield has admitted telling lies to his former employer, his former agent and his former colleagues, I suspect that most watching his latest interview will sense that – this time – he’s being honest when he describes his currently fragile mental state.
While openly admitting to his wrong-doing, the star has clearly been hit hard by the massive media criticism “from all of those people who write all of that stuff.”
This has included criticism about his part in allegedly fostering a supposedly “toxic culture” behind the scenes on This Morning.
It’s also included widespread condemnation of the sexual relationship which Phillip Schofield said began when the young man was 20, after the two had first met on a school visit when the man was 15.
Phillip Schofield did the BBC interview while feeling that – amidst the avalanche of allegations – he needed to put details of his side of the story into the public arena.
In PR world, getting your story into the public domain quickly in times of trouble is generally seen as a smart thing to do.
During the interview Phillip Schofield has plenty of time to explain his perspective in his attempt to counter what he describes as the “non-factual information” that’s being spread.
However, when it came to the dominant messages Phillip Schofield conveys, these are predominantly extremely negative – especially about his own future.
This has led me to wonder whether Phillip Schofield has made a serious mistake in doing the interview while admitting to being in such an unsettled mental state.
Apart from claiming to feel suicidal, his other negative messages are damaging to any potential professional future that he might be able to salvage.
It’s understandable that he’s feeling down after the monumental crash he’s just inflicted on his career.
But things can change over time.
In my view, despite his admitted sins, Phillip Schofield is being way too negative about his future at the wrong moment.
He should be giving himself more space and time before speaking out at such length.
“I don’t see a future!” is one of the key quotes in the interview.
“I’m not in television any more,” is another.
There’s even: “I have to speak about television in the past tense.”
When it comes to media interview response training, one of my guidelines to clients is that – however bad things may seem on any issue and while you must recognise indisputable truths – you need to go into media interviews with one or more viable positive, hopeful messages.
Alas, other than reiterating his apologies – and admitting to seeing the downside of his behaviour towards the young man, to his colleagues and to his employer – there’s not a single positive message that you can identify from anything he says.
Do check the interview out yourself – and feel free to let me know your thoughts.
The Phillip Schofield interview is available at:
Media interview response training equips you to ensure that you go into every interview with your key messages figured out in advance.
This message-formulation is a hugely useful skill to have ahead of all kinds of potential media situations you could find yourself in – not just in the (hopefully highly unlikely) circumstances that you end up in a Schofield-like career crash.
During media training sessions, you get the chance to practise doing mock interviews on a wide range of real and potential future situations – and having your message-formulation and your performances critiqued.
These can include highly positive scenarios where you – or others in your organisation – can be interviewed about new inventions, new services or even radical ways of doing things which could revolutionise your industry.
Media training also gets you ready to give great answers to any “blowtorch-on-the-belly” questions thrown at you in the wake of potentially fantastic business successes and spectacular company failures.
People learning interview response skills typically do best if they have at least 2 days of media response training.
This gives you enough practice and critiques in mock interviews to seek to move towards becoming as “media bombproof” as possible.
Having at least some media interview response training is so much better than being grilled live in a TV studio without having had any.
There’s guidance on performing in media interviews – and for other professional communications situations – in this video:
And there’s more about media training sessions at: http://www.michaeldoddcommunications.com/media-master-classes/
With all my communication-boosting sessions, I typically offer Gold, Silver and Bronze options to fit a range of budgets.
Gold options typically have more camera operator involvement so you and colleagues can maximise the time for seeing and hearing yourselves back – as others see and hear you.
But having at least some on-camera review time is so much better than having none.
And even more important than on-camera critique time is the opportunity to learn how to come up with your own appropriate powerful well-thought-through messages for every media challenge.
After you’ve formulated the right messages, you can learn how to put them at the heart of all your interview performances – whether with TV, radio, magazines, newspapers or news websites.
When even a long-standing TV star can struggle to come up with a credible positive message about his future, you can understand just how vital it is to get your message right for every media encounter you could face!