Have a burning question you can’t find the answer to? Be it travel trends, a regulatory riddle or destination dilemmas, send us your query for an expert response
I was recently approached by my local radio station asking if I could come on and give travel advice as they wanted a local voice. I turned them down because I said I wasn’t free at that time but, really, I found the whole prospect rather intimidating. I now wonder whether that was the right decision. Could you give me some advice and help should they ever come calling again? Anon
You’re not alone in feeling this way, most of us are uncomfortable with public speaking and interviews have the added pressure of a much larger audience. However, they are also a great way to raise your company’s profile and are, in effect, a free advert.
The first piece of advice I would give might sound a little contrary, but it is simply: try not to be nervous. Unless you are going onto a programme like Rip Off Britain or Watchdog defending your company or the industry, presenters will generally be friendly and chatty and do their best to put you at ease. An often-heard expression in the world of media is to “treat it like a chat down the pub”. A relaxed guest makes for a much better programme.
Secondly, make sure you know what you’re talking about. Ask them what kind of subjects they’ll want you to touch on, if you need to do a bit of research first. “I don’t know” is not a great response and is best avoided – after all you’re being asked on as an expert. But at the same time don’t guess or make things up. The ABTA Press Office is always happy to give you some help with advice and tips.
You may be approached and asked what is ABTA’s view on subjects such as lobbying or the government. Best to refer those to the ABTA Press Office. We’ll either do the interview ourselves or get one of our very capable regional spokespeople to do it as it is important that we are consistent in what we say to the media on these kinds of issues.
Some people are not as temperamentally suited to doing interviews, but like most things, they often get much easier with practice, so it won’t do any harm to start off with an interview on a subject you know well and feel comfortable with. Local radio stations are often keen on ABTA Members fielding calls from listeners looking for advice on where to go on holiday and, as travel starts up again, that appetite will definitely be there –after all, you’re better placed than anyone to do this, it’s what you do for a living.
As you get more confident doing interviews, you may find that you’re happier talking about particular issues and have very definite views or information you want to get across. It is a good idea to practice what you are going to say, then you’ll have some ready-made phrases that you’ll be able to slot into an interview. If they like what you’ve said you often find that the radio station will reuse your comments throughout the day – always a sign that you’ve done a good job.
My last top tip is to make sure you have plenty of water with you. Your mouth can get very dry and taking sips between chats will also help with your breathing pattern, to relax and calm your nerves.
Sean Tipton, media relations manager
Each issue we speak to a different ABTA employee about their work. This time: Graeme Buck, director of communications
As director of communications at ABTA, I’m entrusted with an important and exciting role. It encompasses inspiring people about travel, being clear about how ABTA helps both its members and the wider public, and – during the unusual times we live in – helping to bring clarity around what continues to be a fast-changing and unprecedented travel environment.
I’ve worked in communications for more than 25 years and jumped at the chance to join ABTA towards the end of 2020. It’s a fantastic brand and does so much good for the industry.
My career prior to ABTA is varied. On the travel side, I’ve worked with companies such as Sheraton Hotels and Premier Inn, but I also have bags of experience in other consumer-focused businesses and sectors facing challenging times, most recently as head of communications for Waitrose.
‘Communications’ can mean different things to different people – some take it to mean IT, for example. Instead, my role heads a team where our aim is to put across accurate and timely information to a range of audiences, but in particular the travel industry, the wider business world and, of course, UK holiday makers.
Often this involves working with media – putting across messages to them proactively or responding to their enquiries, always ensuring that we represent the travel industry in the best possible light. Sometimes this means being an ABTA spokesperson and so, alongside my colleagues, you may see me pop up on TV news such as the BBC or Sky, or national or local radio, to give commentary on what’s happening in the world of travel. This might include correcting misconceptions on a particular issue, or advising people to book with an ABTA member, for example.
On social media and online, we maintain an ongoing presence through our various ABTA channels and also run campaigns. As I write, we have recently started our #ReadySteadyTravel campaign, which is designed to support consumer confidence in travel now that things have (slowly) restarted. It aims to point customers towards sources of information as travel begins again, to reassure them about uncertainties they may have about travelling safely during a pandemic, and to inspire them to book their much-needed and long-awaited overseas trip.
Each year, we run a ‘Travel With Confidence’ advertising campaign, which again has the purposes of getting people excited about travelling, and shouting about the benefits of doing so with an ABTA Member.
And there’s much more. Common to it all is an aim of supporting our fantastic industry and giving it the best presence we can in the public eye.
It sounds a bit of a cliché, but it’s true to say that no two days are the same, particularly right now with travel facing its biggest-ever peacetime challenge. That’s partly what makes it so enjoyable – knowing that I can bring my experience to this sector and, I hope, help it come through these turbulent times.