BBC Interview Goes Awry & Viral


vBruce Hennes, Managing Partner, Hennes Communications

The blogosphere lit up with smiles last week after a toddler photobombed Robert Kelly’s Skype interview with the BBC from his home in S. Korea. Kelly, a political-science professor, was discussing the South Korea impeachment scandal from his home office with a door closed behind him. As the questioning began, the door opened. A child toddled in and, as they say, fun ensued.

Moments after the video went viral, the bloggers went into criticism overdrive. Some tried to shame those who erroneously assumed the woman trying to fetch the kids was a housekeeper when she was actually his wife. Other suggested he was a bad father and that he should have had the smarts and common-sense to simply pick the first child up and continue the interview uninterrupted, along with many other suggestions for actions he should have taken. Other, more constructive commenters, used the video as fodder for advice to others that one should always do Skype interviews from home with the door locked and call waiting suspended.

Indeed, all interviews are fraught with peril, especially those done outside of professional studios where care must be taken to ensure the best sound and light, with the avoidance of distractions.

That said, we have a different take on the video that we’ve not read elsewhere. The interviewer at the BBC – and those of us in the audience, as well – had about seven extra seconds to process what was going on before the dad did. That’s an awful lot of time to second-guess. A person can make many quick decision-tree decisions with just those extra few seconds, which he didn’t have.

The movie, Sully, the story of Chesley Sullenberger, an American pilot who became a hero after landing his damaged plane on the Hudson River in order to save the flight’s passengers and crew, provides an excellent example of that. In the court trial at the end of the movie, multiple experts testified that Captain Sullenberger had plenty of time to make the decision to land at a nearby airport instead of crash-landing on the Hudson River.

But those experts had hours to review, over and over, all of the electronic evidence, gaming each one out one at a time. Sully only had about 90 seconds to make a decision, which turned out to be the right one.

The professor in the BBC video didn’t make the wrong decision. He just made the best one he could make in the time he had under the stress of a live interview.


About the Author: Bruce Hennes is managing partner of Hennes Communications, one of the few firms in the U.S. focused exclusively on crisis management and crisis communications. Active in his community, Bruce has served for seven years on the executive committee of the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association and he’s a member of the board of the Cleveland Leadership Center.

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