“Facts are Protein, Opinions are Carbs”
Media Training Tip of the Month by Bridgid Nzekwu, Head of Media Training at TNR
I recently had the pleasure of discussing the art of messaging with Matthew Ryder QC, an eminent barrister and also London’s Deputy Mayor for Social Integration, Social Mobility and Community Engagement. This is a man who really knows how to communicate with impact, hence a brilliant legal career, followed by a high-profile political appointment. Matthew told me he always reminds junior barristers attending his lectures that “facts are protein, opinions are carbs”. I immediately asked (and received!) his permission to steal this excellent metaphor.
The idea of the ‘message sandwich’ is one of the ways spokespeople are taught to get their point across effectively. In TNR Bespoke Media Training, delegates learn the ‘PEP’ technique in which they:
1. Make their Point
2. Back it up with an Example, Evidence or Explanation
3. Repeat their Point, using different words
In the message sandwich, the most important part is the filling (Example, Evidence, Explanation) which should be persuasive or compelling, surprising, new or in some way likely to get the attention of your audience. Without this important core, messages are empty and are easily dismissed as having little or no real value. Consider the following statements:
“XXX is Britain’s best supermarket”
An obvious marketing message which, on its own, is merely a claim that consumers may ignore or not believe.
P: XXX is Britain’s best online supermarket…
E: We’re proud to have won the Grocer Gold Award again, for the third, consecutive year.
P: So our customers know they’re getting the best value and service online.
Here, mentioning the award is more likely to get the audience’s attention and is also evidence/proof of the message of the supermarket, making it harder to simply dismiss.
Of course, the example/evidence/explanation needs to be true, which brings us back to Matthew Ryder’s protein-carb metaphor. Using verifiable facts (protein) in your messages sustains your argument/interview/speech and suggest substance. On the other hand, using too many facts in messaging is a bad idea, making it too heavy and difficult for your audience to digest. The same goes for messaging that is bloated with too many opinions/slogans/brand mentions (carbs), which can make a spokesperson and their organisation appear inauthentic. Far better to take the healthy, balanced meal approach, using both facts and opinions to communicate in a way that is memorable and authoritative.
Bridgid Nzekwu is Head of Media Training at TNR, part of the Press Association. She coaches spokespeople in business, politics and the public sector in media interview and public speaking skills and trains comms teams in media handling. Bridgid is a former Channel 4 News presenter and reporter and is a freelance anchor for ITV News.
Follow Bridgid on Twitter @BridgidNzekwu