Paul learnt the hard way how important it is to prepare for every interview. In 1990 as a cub reporter at BBC Essex he was asked to grab an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was giving a speech in Colchester. Nelson Mandela had just been released from prison and there was huge interest in South African politics. As the great man walked past Paul took his opportunity – “When Nelson Mandela left prison he spent his first night of freedom with you. What did you say to him?” The Archbishop stopped, took a deep breath and then paused. With a crowd of 50 people looking on he answered in his trademark fashion, “Hello!” Everyone laughed -except for the red-faced reporter.
Over the next 20 or so years Paul made sure he didn’t fall into the same trap. As a radio and TV reporter he interviewed thousands of people including four Prime Ministers, dozens of cabinet ministers, many CEOs, a few showbiz stars and a number of criminals – some of whom may or may not have already been included in this list.
Since leaving the BBC he has worked with many senior management teams to get them ready for a journalistic grilling. The key? Preparation. Doing your homework not only pays off if you are asking the questions but also when you are on the receiving end. Would you be happy to do an interview now, unprepared, with John Humprys? If the answer is ‘No”, you need some media training; and if the answer is ‘Yes’ – you really need some media training!