An uncontentious media interview – as are most interviews that your spokespeople will ever undertake – on Monday 26th July nonetheless demonstrated the skill of someone who has been media trained to communicate effectively an engaging message. And in the same interview, that contrasted starkly with the ramblings of someone who had not been media trained. I know the one who had been trained because we did it a few years ago and she’s brilliant.
First up, Councillor Linda Wild – Mayor of Whitby, a lovely Yorkshire seaside town.
Question one from the Today Programme’s Gavin Esler’s to Linda – how is Whitby handling more visitors than you would normally get?
The Mayor gave a meandering one minute response, opening with “I’m going to have to do a little promotion here”. Esler was willing to let her but Linda forewarning me that she was about to indulge in some blatant advertising still set me on edge.
Unsophisticated interviewee she may have been but Linda was authentic, passionate and proud of her town. She highlighted how there was only one road in and out of town. That made me think ‘traffic jams’ although I suspect she was trying to say its remoteness was attractive. She ended her ramble by saying that it was indeed a challenge to accommodate (literally) all these stay-cationers which didn’t answer Esler’s question about how they were doing so. And made me think that it would be pointless trying to visit this or any Summer.
She also agreed that the town was suffering from the ‘pingdemic’ – that local, often family-owned businesses were having to close shop to keep staff safe. Which made me think ‘not much point in going if everything is shut’.
And it’s not great promotion to say as she did of the visitors who would otherwise be abroad for their holiday that “their expectations are higher because they’re used to being in the sun and having a lot of outdoor space … [unavailable in Whitby I wondered?]” and that “they are enjoying themselves but they will go abroad as soon as they can.” That may be but Linda needed to give examples of how and why Whitby is great and should be visited at any time – not just when you have no other holiday choice.
Enter Patricia Yates, highly experienced interviewee and CEO of Visit Britain, the UK’s national tourism agency. Esler asked about the longer term challenge of keeping hold the stay-cationers in the UK in the future. Smooth and urbane, with one clear message playing to audience sensibilities, Patricia said:
“What we are seeing is people who haven’t holidayed in Britain for a very long time, having holidays at home. But I think they will be astonished by the quality of what they see – our self-catering and bed and breakfasts are absolutely world-class. Our attractions have done so much work to enthuse people with our history and heritage. So I hope it will be a start of a habit. Of course we are an island and people want to go abroad but we’d like to see people saying ‘actually we will come back in the autumn and winter’ when these resorts that are busy now will absolutely want visitors to keep coming to extend the season.”
That’s how to do it, Linda.