Geoffrey Stackhouse, Managing Director, Clarity Solutions
Most of the time, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull does great media.
His interview technique is world class and easily the best in Australia, so deconstructing his work is a masterclass in communicating leadership.
Take his iconic 7:30 interview - his first as PM. I’ve watched it many times trying to crack his code so I can tell it like Turnbull.
He’s doing lots of things right, but he has one stand out superpower: Turnbull exercises the most extraordinary level of control but it appears effortless and is almost completely invisible.
That’s the main reason he comes across as a strong leader – confident, commanding and engaging.
In Australia we’re used to watching politicians treat an interview like a boxing match. Not just Tony Abbott but his predecessors Rudd and Gillard as well.
They focused on scoring points or blocking their opponent from scoring points. They all fell into the trap of seeing the ‘biffo’ as a means to an end.
But what Turnbull shows us is that in a media interview the real prize is how you influence public opinion not how many blows you can land or duck.
The most powerful interview techniques are invisible, and here are three tips to help you tell it like Turnbull.
1. Respect the question: Show you’ve heard it but don’t fight it. If you fight the question it controls you by dictating how you respond. Better to acknowledge that the view exists but share yours.
2. Respect your audience: Never tell people what they should think or feel, instead present the arguments you need to win them over and form the views you want them to hold.
3. Respect yourself and bring that to the interview: Turnbull comes across as a human being not a machine. Rudd, Gillard and Abbott all lacked empathy, they had a carefully constructed two dimensional media persona which put distance between them and their audience. In sharp contrast Turnbull’s delivery was passionate and felt authentic, he flirted and shared and came across as confident but not infallible.
But no interview is perfect, and Turnbull has certainly hit a few false notes.
The most spectacular was his patronising anecdote about hard-working New York taxi drivers which was probably intended to showcase his connection with the common man, but was just cringeworthy.