Wednesday, 25 July 2012


The BBC decided that they didn't "own the tone" of the Jubilee Celebrations.

Tone will be the first thing on the minds of commentators and pundits during the Olympic Coverage.

Tone is often overlooked in journalism, as it is in most forms of communications work.

So what is tone? How can you define it's use in comms? Tone is more than syntax and paradigm; it's the collection of emotional signifiers that connect with an audiences own reading of the import, gravity, & significance of an action or event. It's all the bits in a message that aren't the words...

But, it includes the words...

Those who have completely misread tone include The Sun Newspaper's reaction to the Hilsborough Disaster in 1989 which centres around the collective shock of the event and the subsequent blame-storming.

The coalition Governments Omnishambles budget got the tone wrong. The Chancellor approached it from a "we have to do something about the economy" point of view, the electorate approached it from "I don't want my pasty to be taxed" point of view. The subsequent volte-face and insistence that The Government was listening to the electorate, once again got the tone wrong. At that point they just wanted them to admit to getting it wrong.

The BBC's attempted giddy, carnival coverage of what turned out to be a rousing, formal, slightly sombre celebration along the Thames actually turned out to be flippant and silly and a little bit disrespectful.

When looking at corporate comms (internal and external) the tone needs to be within a consistent framework. What does the brand stand for? What are the core values? How is that presented alongside the information that needs to be disseminated? If we have to comment on a pseudo-political matter what is the tone of the message? The tone becomes the driver of that message, the right words with the wrong tone is more damaging than the wrong words with the right tone...

Do we have to mention Fern Cotton here?

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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

So, you're in a studio...

These are 10 simple steps to make sure that you control a broadcast interview, not them.

1. You can say no.
If they have misinterpreted your story, want to move it into a different context, or they are just a bit pushy and unpleasant; you can say no. They'd prefer an honest no rather than a scrappy interview that doesn't help either of you. In crisis terms if you do say no understand that the refusal will be interpreted badly... so go to step 2.

2. 'Not yet' is a viable option.
The average journalist is eager for content NOW. You may need some time to marshal the people that need to be in place. Be honest enough to tell them that. They are more likely to trust you as a contact and trust builds a splendid working relationship. In crisis terms a written statement saying 'not yet because...' buys time... but not a lot of time.

3. What is the story and what will the angle be?
You need to know what's in the journalists head before you say yes. The angle may be that everyone in your organisation is evil... it forewarns you about difficult questions.

4. Is it for a programme or a news clip?
Programme means longer on-air, news clip is 30 second for a bulletin. This indicates how much work you need to put in setting someone up. The CEO won't be bothered by 30 seconds so an underling may be better. For the full programme experience you need someone who's articulate and briefed.

5. What's the programme remit?
News programmes will be shorter but harder, magazine programmes will be longer and softer (stop giggling). It's all to do with the tone of the interviewer. With so many listen again services, and stations on the internet then there's no excuse to listen to the interviewer before the interview to get a feel.

6. Live, recorded, packaged?
Live or recorded change the tone of what's happening but also changes the opportunity for editing out commercial bits of a recording. Packaged will mean that you interview will only be one element of the audio used. If the story is contentious or difficult for your organisation then expect your detractors to be featured as well as you (see below).

7. Is there anyone else appearing?
The BBC have to tell you this under the fair dealing producer guidelines. The reason? (see above)

8. You will call back.
Unless you are absolutely sure that you can get everything in place and that all concerned are available call back before committing. The journo would prefer to wait for an answer than the answer change. I would advise within half an hour for the call back; even if it's to say that you need more time. If they don't think it's coming together they may dump it and move on.

9. Is there anything that you DON'T want to talk about?
Under fair dealing policy if there is something that you can't won't or wouldn't want to talk about, tell them now. It may mean that they have to change what they're doing, or they may dump it all together, but you want to make sure that if you're invited to discuss 'A' you're not bumped onto the problems with 'B'.

10. You can say 'NO'.
If you're still not happy with the angle, with the story, or if you don't think that you can add something to a speculative punt, say no. It's better to be honest than crap. It all goes back to trust as a contact. However, as already said, if you're in a crisis situation saying 'no' is as bad as being found poisoning the water, with blood on your hands, standing over the body...

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Thursday, 5 July 2012

Silly Season Vlog.

To celebrate the start of The Silly Season, here's another vlog from the face of JDoubleR, and in case you were wondering the Season officially starts on the 17th of July this year.

Another vlog from the face of JDoubleR

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