My interview questions were almost completely ignored the other day - and it was as easy as ABC.
In fact it was the interview technique known as ABC, beloved by politicians in particular, that did it for me. The interview was with the Spanish housing minister for this piece here.
There was always going to be a clash - I wanted to find out about the cases of thousands of Britons who have fallen victim to three categories of corruption or scams, while the minister wanted to ignore that and concentrate on reforms to make future sales of Spain’s holiday homes safer for foreign purchasers.
So each time I asked a question, the old ABC reply came. It stands for Acknowledge, Bridge, Communicate, with ‘communicate’ referring to the issues that the interviewee wants to get across irrespective of the questions that the interviewer asks.
This tactic is a favourite with professional media trainers who are often employed by politicians. Even if you don’t know of this technique, you have probably heard it many times on TV and radio interviews in particular. It goes like this:
Interviewer: “So will the coalition fall apart after the local election results?”
ABC politician: “That’s the big question. [Acknowledge]. But just a few days after the elections, that’s not the issue as we see it. [Bridge] Instead we’re concentrating on the things that really matter which are blah, blah and blah [Communicate].”
The Spanish housing minister was an expert.
She effectively used the technique to avoid discussing the fate of Britons whose homes were at risk because past corrupt deals meant their homes were retrospectively deemed ‘illegal’ so cannot now easily be sold.
She also used it to steer clear of an explanation as to why the Spanish government would not intervene on behalf of thousands of Britons whose deposits, paid into banks, have not been returned to them even though their homes were not built thanks to developers going bust.
She also refused to say how much Spanish taxpayers were paying for her government’s six-nation ‘roadshow’ to promote the new rules regarding overseas purchase of holiday homes in Spain.
Her hope, of course - as it is with all interviewees who use ABC - is that frustrated journalists use the quotes they have, even though they were for questions that were never asked. Therefore the interviewee sets the agenda, avoids embarrassment, and puts forward only the good news.
You can see for yourself, given the press attention to the Spanish property roadshow, that the ABC technique does not always work...
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