Claire Wright, CLA Regional Surveyor speaks on her recent appearance on BBC Cambridgeshire and what it feels like to undertake media work on behalf of the CLA
Occasionally working for the CLA throws you a curveball that puts you out of your normal comfort zone; one of those moments happened for me last Sunday morning. I had been asked to head into the BBC Cambridgeshire studios for an hour live slot on their Countryside & Gardening show. Thankfully given my terrible track record with killing plants in my garden they were more interested in getting the view of the CLA on the forthcoming Conservative Leadership election than my gardening tips.
Installed behind a microphone and fuelled with a mug of truly dreadful BBC coffee I was good to go. The journalist decided to be fairly combative as he grilled me on our five pledges that we have asked the eventual Prime Minister to put his name to. These can be read in full here but essentially we covered in depth the areas of funding for the agricultural sector, connectivity, food standards, rural housing and taxation. My role was to defend the interests of our members and the wider agricultural industry. Under some intense questioning, it took all my efforts to stay calm and stick to the agreed policy lines.
— CLA (@CLAtweets) June 25, 2019 >CLA staff regularly undertake media training with former BBC journalists so that we are comfortable being interviewed on all manner of sometimes controversial topics with the resulting difficult questions that may crop up. In training, they ask us much harder questions than we would ever face in a real broadcast interview so that live appearances feel less intimidating and we get a chance to make mistakes when it doesn’t matter! I’m not sure I felt the benefit at the time when I completely choked during a recorded piece to camera and completely forgot the third point I was going to make having already confidentially told the audience that I had three key points to make!! All this training, however, means that we are well placed to represent our organisation at a regional and national level often with very little notice to prepare ourselves before recording begins.
When I first started working for the CLA I was relatively reserved and when I was called upon to do my first radio interview over the telephone I remember being too nervous to eat breakfast. Ahead of my first television interview the CLA Communications Manager decided that he would opt for the element of surprise, I certainly didn’t have time to get nervous when he suddenly diverted off our planned route back to the office and announced that ITV wanted to film me talking about arson risks on farms.
Since these early appearances on local media, I have been called upon to answer questions on all sorts of CLA campaigns from sky lanterns and poaching to the loss of rural services in villages and invasive weeds.
Sometimes journalists like to also interview members of our organisation to get an additional, personal angle for the story they are covering so next time you see the Regional Office calling your mobile they might just be asking you to join one of us on the telly!