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Phil Rudd and ambush interviews

21 July 2015

If you saw Phil Rudd’s performance outside his house on TV news last night, you will understand how not to act if a camera is thrust in front of you without warning.

This is known as an ambush interview and the cameraman is usually accompanied by a reporter asking tough questions. In this case it was a lone cameraman who appeared to ask Rudd how he felt about his day, having been back in court.

Rudd lost control. He threatened the cameraman. His security person stepped in to keep Rudd from getting too close. He was then threatened as well.

Clearly this was the wrong approach. All it did was give the cameraman some classic footage and lowered the reputation of Rudd among those watching. I imagine it went all over social media soon after it was released.

So what do you do if ambushed like this?

Firstly, ambushes usually happen after the person approached has refused to give an organised interview. This is usually a bad idea. If it’s a negative story against you, the only chance you have of putting your case is to front up for the interview. On the odd occasion, a written statement may be enough.

But if a camera is thrust in your face, here’s what to do. Greet the reporter politely and agree to the interview at a later date. That way there is no interesting footage to use. That means the crew’s only option is to agree to your terms and do the interview later.

Don’t wait too long, as the reporter will have a deadline to meet. Then do the interview in a more relaxed atmosphere when your head is in the right space and you have your own message to focus on when talking to the reporter.

Also be aware the cameraman and reporter would love you to do a Phil Rudd. That creates a far meatier story for them.  If fear is your reason for avoiding the interview, you need to take part in a media training workshop as an insurance policy. It will give you the skills to deal with this scenario, and all other media encounters. But it’s too late once it happens. As former Australian Prime Minister John Howard once said: “You can’t fatten a pig on market day.”

For more on my media training, contact pete@mediatrainingnz.co.nz or 029 200 8555.

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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