A month ago, Hugh Grant copped some flak for an interview undertaken at the 95th Academy Awards. American model Ashley Graham posed him a series of questions on the Oscars’ red carpet, to which he gave very brief answers, and accusations subsequently flew around social media that he was “rude”, “dismissive” and “a misanthrope”.
Of course, there are two sides to every story; other commentators have called him “authentic”, “sincere” and even “normal” – praise not often heaped on celebrities.
So, where do we stand from a PR point of view, and what can we learn from his interview technique? Let’s break things down.
As one of the most recognisable faces of our TV screens, it’s natural that ABC – for whom Graham was reporting – would want a few soundbites from the British actor, although a cameo of only a few seconds in Glass Onion, the sequel to the 2019 murder mystery Knives Out, didn’t give Graham much to go on.
Indeed, when asked “How fun is it to shoot something like that?”, Grant’s response was about as brief as his appearance. But, we think, spot on.
Our first rule of interviews is to not answer anything that you don’t know the answer to or are uncomfortable answering. Given he was “barely in it… in it for about three seconds”, any elaboration as to how fun it was to film would have been purely guesswork.
You see, interviewees can’t be expected to have all the answers.
Even a CEO won’t know everything that’s going in his company, because his CFO, CTO, CMO, CHRO, etc, will be tasked with the organisations’ various operations. So, if you’re unsure of anything, there is nothing wrong with saying, “I’ll have to come back to you on that”, and following up with further details.
Backing up a bit, Graham’s first question was “What’s your favourite thing about coming to the Oscars?” After a wry smile, perhaps indicating a slight disdain for the glitz and the glamour, Grant described the event as “Vanity Fair”.
When the model missed his reference to William Thackeray’s satirical novel, instead assuming he was referring to the prestigious after party hosted by the fashion magazine of the same name, Grant politely nodded along to her comment that “that’s where we let loose and have a little fun.”
Which brings us neatly onto our second interview rule; always treat the journalist with respect.
Don’t be patronising, leave out jargon, and don’t assume the journalist is an expert in your field – that’s your job! Speak in terms that allow them and your audience to form a connection.
Elsewhere in the interview, Grant could be praised for his modesty, not shouting about the designer of his tuxedo, which highlights the importance of not coming across as boastful – even if the interview is asking about a particular success. Be yourself, be honest, and if you make a claim, make sure you’re able to back it up with facts and figures.
So far, so good, Hugh. But if we have one point of criticism, it’s this: never go into an interview unprepared.
At Clearly, we’ll always work with our clients to ensure their spokespersons are fully briefed on the nature of the interview, and they know the audience they’re addressing. This will help determine key messaging, which should be two or three essential points that you want to get across, and a call to action.
Remember, the key to a good interview isn’t in the interview itself; it’s in the preparation.
So, bearing in mind that Grant was put on the spot, was he “rude”? No. Brief and succinct, yes. Despite his answers going over Graham’s head, was he “dismissive”? No. Polite and accommodating, yes. As for being a “misanthrope”, we really don’t think so. In fact, under the circumstances, we think his interview was rather good.
If you want to learn more about how interviews can enhance your brand story and how to navigate them, please get in touch with our media team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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