Don’t busk it if you want to strike the right note

Don’t busk it if you want to strike the right note

Can you imagine being so inspired by a radio report about Soweto children having to learn to play

musical Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 12.11.31instruments in a toilet of all places, that you persuade your colleagues to busk in a train station to raise money to help those kids?

It’s a great story – all the greater for being true.

But when viola player Rosemary Nalden went on Radio 4’s Today programme to talk about it this morning, she failed to do what’s essential in a broadcast interview: hit the ground running.

Instead she threw in lots of irrelevant comments about waking up a friend, sitting around chatting etc.. when the key point she needed to say was how that subsequent busking in stations helped transform the lives of many children with spectacular results.

The presenter, Justin Webb, realised swift probing was needed to reach the crux and succeeded in getting her to talk about how three of her South African students are now studying at the Royal Academy of Music and her first protégé is a lecturer at Bloemfontein University. Wow! But how easily that might never have been mentioned.

In a media interview you can't build up to the key points - they must be there at the top, because you never know if the interview will be cut short by a breaking news item. Plus, we journalists are always aware that there will be plenty of people who won't be interested in the topic, no matter how fascinating it might be to others, so we don't want them disappearing off to make a cup of tea.

On top of the slow start, Rosemary waited until the end of the interview to say the charity’s name, Buskaid, which should really have been in her first breath. The lesson? Never forget an interview is a great “sales opportunity”. It's why key message preparation is essential. The shorter the interview, the more prep you must do.

No wonder Webb can be heard saying at the end, “I wish we had more time to talk about it”. But alas, too much time was wasted early on.

Buskaid sounds a wonderful organisation and Rosemary is surely a worthy recipient of honorary membership of the Royal Philharmonic Society. I just hope, when she receives it today, she’ll maximise the opportunity of any acceptance speech.

That would be music to our ears.

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