Rob Bell’s Love Wins – but Do His Interviews Win?
By now I’m sure you’ve read the controversies surrounding Bell’s new book. I’m not here to debate the theological stance he’s taking like so many other bloggers; I’ll leave that to the scholars and public. What I am interested in is his ability to give a good interview, to clearly articulate his message on point, and to leave me wanting to know more so I’ll go out and buy the book. Frankly after watching some of his interviews, like so many other people, I’m stumped as to what his message actually is and was left with little-to-no desire to read his book.
Bell made some basic interview mistakes:
1.) What’s your point?
Regarding Bell’s interview on Good Morning America, viewers were left questioning his message and point. Some of the posts I’ve been reading on Facebook:
“His answers were vague and without absolutes…I’m sure if he had the time to go into whatever he was trying to explain, he would probably end up confusing himself. So it’s probably best that he only had a couple of minutes.”
“It seems like he deliberately avoided a direct answer for fear of controversy and opposition. Disappointing.”
“I watched it, he said a whole lot of nothing!”
When you only have a few minutes live on air to discuss a highly-debated, controversial subject matter that’s complicated, it’s essential to simplify your message; make it accessible to the viewers so they are clear about your point. Leave viewers understanding what you’re saying.
2.) Contradicted himself:
Bell’s interview on MSNBC left the interviewer, Martin Bashir, impatient and dissatisfied with Bell’s answers claiming Bell was contradicting himself. The interviewer asked Bell if he was a Universalist to which Bell responded, “I would say first and foremost, no”. However, as the interview continued Bell made some remarks that were Universalist in theory. Bashir responded with, “You are asking for it both ways. That doesn’t make sense.”
Regardless of the interviewer, their agenda or tone, it’s vital to be consistent in your answers.
3.) Didn’t answer the reporter’s questions well:
Staying with the interview from MSNBC, Bashir asked Bell the same question three times because he didn’t feel like Bell answered his question. The question Bashir asked was: “Is it irrelevant, as to how you respond to Christ in your life now, to determine your eternal destiny? Is that irrelevant? Is it immaterial?”
To which Bell responded:
First Time: “I think it’s extraordinarily important. I think it’s extraordinarily important.
Second Time: “It is terribly relevant and terribly important. Now, how exactly that works out and how exactly it works out in the future, we are now when you die firmly in the realm of speculation…”
Third Time: “I think it has tremendous bearing. It also at the same time raises all sorts of questions, and that is why the discussion is so lively and vibrant…”
The challenge with Bell’s answers is they were vague. He would have been better off stating, “It is terribly relevant and this is why…” not reiterate all the questions and issues it brings up. If something is terribly relevant, which apparently it is because he stated that three times, tell us specifically why it’s relevant.
4.) Repeated the reporter’s negative questions:
Bell said in a matter of minutes to series of questions asked,
“No, it’s not true.”
“No, it’s not true.”
“No, I haven’t.”
He responded ‘no’ three times to the reporter’s negative, interrogating questions. When media coaching we encourage clients to never repeat a reporter’s negative comments or say it isn’t true because it only enforces what the reporter/interviewer is saying and re-enforces the negativity; instead state what IS TRUE:
“Actually, there is an entire chapter in the book on hell.”
“The history is accurate. The Scriptures are defensible.” Et al.
If you’re doing a media tour and interviews, tough questions and tough interviews will come. That’s par for course. How you respond to them is critical. Make sure you’re prepared and know your message well and only say what you actually want heard.
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