I have a bad habit of criticizing nearly every news interview I hear, so I get really excited when I hear one that restores my faith in spokespeople.
Yesterday on NPR’s Here & Now, Denis Mulligan of the Golden Gate Bridge transit district knocked it out of the park.
He was discussing the district’s plan to install “suicide nets” on the bridge to prevent fatalities. He hit every point, addressed every question and (most importantly, in my opinion), stopped talking at just the right moment. The interview went so well, in fact, that I wondered whether it had been scripted. I’ll let you decide.
It’s not perfect. There are several “umms,” which don’t bother me as much as they used to. And Mulligan is an uptalker, which is a personal pet peeve that sends shivers up my spine. But on balance, it was a great job and is a worthy model for spokespeople to follow.
I’m completely speculating, but I suspect he did a few things:
He had notes or talking points in front of him while he did the interview. There is no shame in using talking points, especially when you’re doing a phone interview. (There should be shame in NOT using them.)
He practiced. Perhaps he has a communication person that helped with the talking points and likely follow up questions. Regardless, he sounded like had had this conversation a million times.
He learned to talk about something about which he is not an expert (which suggests he researched and practiced that, too). Surely, his organization deals with a disturbing number of suicides each year. But I don’t think Mulligan is a mental health professional. Still, he sounded knowledgable, compassionate and believable when discussing this very sensitive issue.
So, give it a listen. Mulligan’s interview is the first four minutes of the story.