Before speaking about media to 500+ aspiring environmental campaigners at Al Gore’s Climate Reality event in Melbourne, media trainer Brett de Hoedt was interviewed on ABC-TV’s Weekend Breakfast. So how well does a media trainer perform on live television? Judge for yourself.
Brett says it was a tricky interview: “The interview brief was rather fuzzy. I spoke to three or four different segment producers each of whom was just carrying on the work for someone else. Nobody had fully thought through what was to be tackled. The best investment I made was writing a pre-interview document suggesting some topics / issues. I also explained that I wasn’t an environmentalist or event organiser. I explained the topics that I could address with knowledge and certainty.
Brett - who does not lack confidence – spent six to eight hours prepping for this seven minute interview. Why so much? “Evaluating or defending the climate change movement’s campaigning is not something about which I specifically blog or speak,” he humbles. “Other topics would require little more prep than the ironing of a shirt but this wasn’t one of those.”
Of course, going-to-air live adds an element of risk. The interview was held in the remote studio in Melbourne talking directly down the barrel of a tiny camera. The room is small, hot and there’s no monitor to see your interviewer. You are spoken to via an earpiece. There was no briefing by the interviewer’s prior to her opening question – just a time countdown.
Brett himself rates his performance a 7 / 10. “On time, dressed, no swearing, looked reasonably comfortable, made a few decent points, didn’t accidentally call interviewer Kochie,” he says.
“Bonus points for clarifying the interview’s direction beforehand and the subsequent research. I directed the conversation back to what I wanted it to be a couple of times. Yeah – about a seven.” Not good enough but not bad.
Brett’s review of Brett: Brett’s first response: You could measure it (the climate movement’s campaigning results) in a positive way or a negative way… That’s good practice. Explaining that it can be measured in a positive or negative way paves the way for me to then go ahead and explain the two ways. That’s two bites of the cherry and more control for me. I always teach that, so it’s good to see that I did it.
Eliza: Last year’s election result seems to be a mandate for Tony Abbott and his government to move away from a pricing mechanism on carbon. So therefore do you think that things have really stalled? Brett: Yeah, it’s certainly not a vote in favour of the current campaign… Very, very bad.
I should not have accepted this characterisation and should have said: “Well the election was a measure of many things – carbon tax being just one of them. In fact its been broadly agreed that environment matters were almost entirely off the election agenda. Interestingly this week another poll confirmed that 80%+ of Australians want to reduce carbon.”
Eliza: You talk about the current way of campaigning. An Inconvenient Truth – there were quite a few fear messages. I mean that part of it was quite frightening, the prospects of what would happen. Do you think that fear has been somewhat of a problem?
In any reasonably sophisticated interview there’s the question and then there’s the premise on which the question is based. The underlying premise here was that Al Gore had overstated his case in An Inconvenient Truth and that predictions had failed to come true.
This premise had to be identified and countered in real time. Thus I am happy with my response which was in part: If we’re saying that the worst impact of climate change is yet to happen, well, I’d say, according to a report from the World Health Organization 7 million people around the globe, 7 million, died prematurely from air pollution. A staggering statistic. We’ve just had our hottest summer on record in Australia. We’ve had I think the warmest autumn ever. So the impacts are right here, right now. So I don’t think we have to worry about terrible circumstances down the track. The here and now is quite bad enough to steel us to action.
I’m am also glad that I repeated a key stat – 7 million deaths. Who’d have thought my prep would have paid off?
Eliza: Do you feel that the other side of the argument is running a better public relations campaign? Not a bad response by me but I should have added that much of the media has decided to ignore science and climate change with this a line like this:
“It’s easy to maintain the status quo when there is media on your side despite the facts. Some media outlets in this country are now so politically-driven that they can’t even agree whether we’ve smoked more or less in the last year – despite ABS data and annual reports of tobacco companies.”
Eliza: OK – so how do you counter that? This is a broad question so it provided an opportunity to promote the Climate Reality training. Also glad I got to use the phrase, “Tree hugging vegans” and speak of 30-year-long comas.
One big dumb error was not mentioning this blog post by Shell’s climate change advisor David Hone which argues passionately for a price on carbon. I had my schtick ready: “Eliza last night I read a blog post titled: 10 reasons why business should love a price on carbon. That’s the sort of article you’d expect to see on a greenie website but I found it on the Shell website. As in Shell oil. It was written by Shell’s own climate change advisor David Hone. When Shell is schilling for a price on carbon, it’s time the politicians caught up.” Bugger.
When I mentioned that climate change attracts criticism and kooks I wasn’t exaggerating. By the time I returned to Hootville HQ two emails – each debunking the climate change hoax – awaited me. Then there was this minor and poorly written Facebook trolling.