When radio goes horribly, horribly wrong

It’s the nightmare scenario for everyone who might find themselves in front of a live mic. The fear that you’ll get caught out, go blank, just generally do that rabbit in the headlights thing.

It happens and when it does it’s excruciating for everyone – but we love to listen…

Here is one of the finest examples of this awful situation that you’ll hear for a while. It’s the leader of the Green Party, Natalie Bennett, falling apart in the face of polite but insistent questioning from LBC’s Nick Ferrari. He could quite clearly smell blood early on and knew he could play it softly and let her frame her own demise.

If you’re someone who has to be the public face of your organisation, this kind of thing can bring you out in a cold sweat. Could it happen to you? Should you refuse to do any live interviews ever again, just in case?!

The truth is, as we always tell our clients, you don’t need to panic about an interview as long as you are genuinely an expert on your subject. If you don’t know your topic inside out and back-to-front, you should not be sat in a chair near a microphone.

That’s easy to say and we all know that, as fallible humans, we can be off our game, distracted, tired, even out of the loop because events have advanced quickly. Sometimes your mind just goes blank. So what’s the answer? For no-one to ever agree to an interview?

No, what Natalie Bennett should have done was be honest. Human. It’s far from ideal for a politician to say “I don’t know”, but it’s better by miles than umming, ahhing, coughing and sounding like the least capable leader the world has seen…

Apologise, be honest that you have so much going on in your head that you’ve gone and been human about those particular numbers. Get back to basics, to the principles on which you stand and batter home those messages, with a promise that the figures will follow. No, it’s not perfect, but it’s better than sounding like you’ve been skewered.

The pressure is on all politicians now. Any slip will be mercilessly punished. What Natalie Bennett has achieved is to demonstrate that she is not the master of the many subjects a leader must be on top of. Harsh, but reality in an unforgiving world.

Update (25 Feb): And there it is! Natalie Bennett, having finally got some advice, came back out later in the day and explained how she suffered ‘brain fade’ and was only human. It’s just a shame that a misguided attempt by Baroness Jenny Jones to shield Bennett from more criticism at a press conference only resulted in extending the farce.