Mike Coupe of Sainsburys shows how to deal with the media, avoids tricky questions

August 28, 2015

MIke CoupeMike Coupe, the CEO of Sainsburys, was on the BBC’s Wake up to money programme this week. His main objective was to present his company’s decision to pay employees a living wage.  He skilfully kept away from several potential pratfalls

It was an easy ride for the confident sounding CEO.  [I might recommend him for student study, I thought.]

Parson’s hand grenades

The interviewer, the thoroughly well-prepped Adam Parsons, had a few obligatory hand grenades to lob across the table.  The interviewee defused them skillfully.

The questions and answers

Basic wage payment? Part of a long term plan

Supermarkets screwing farmers over milk prices?  Some do, we don’t

Petrol prices at store are loss leaders.  Prices very competitive and (of course) good for the customers

Would your shareholders say you are paying out a lot of money?  [That’s an interesting question, I thought.]  I waited for a standard answer about Corporate Social Responsibility.  Instead, Mr Coupe briskly made his only obvious venture into Corporate speak territory.  He referred to the importance of maintaining the company’s reputation of having the highest level of customer satisfaction and the importance of motivated ‘inward facing staff’. In other words, the pay rise could be justified in financial terms in the long run.

Overall  impact of the interview

Mr Coupe would have been pleased to have kept away from contextual issues such as the tough trading conditions at Sainsburys, the recent laying off of nearly a thousand of those ‘inward facing’ employees as part of an efficiency drive, and pressures accompanying the decision to introduce the modest wage rise.

His answers were clear, coherent and confident.  If I had one concern, they seemed too well-prepared, too quickly delivered.  Getting leaders to sound empathetic  is harder than preparing them to deliver  a convincing rational set of answers in role playing  rehearsal. Terry Leahy when boss of Tesco managed it well, although Sir Terry’s style was more informal and a little warmer.

Student discussion questions

How would you evaluate the interview from the perspective of a media coach?

From Mike Coupe’s perspective?

From the interviewer’s  perspective?

Background materials

BBC’s summary of the interview

Management Today’s interview with Mike Coupe

Is the wage rise ‘a publicity stunt’?


Geek Speak will not rescue Blackberry’s future

January 30, 2013

Blackberry 10RIM re-launches its Blackberry 10 product today. It is not helped if its executives can only use Geek Speak in press interviews

In the UK, RIM’s press agency has done its job and an interview arranged for a senior Blackberry executive to explain the new product to BBC’s Five Live radio audience [8am, Jan 30th 2012]. After a few minutes, the interviewer realised he was dealing with someone speaking a difficult executive dialect of Geek Speak.

When asked to simplify what was new about the new product the executive, naturally, continued in Geek Speak without a translator to hand.

I may have missed something

I may have missed something, as my grasp of Geek Speak is also limited. I thought he said something that sounded like the new product ‘enabled transition to a unique and exciting end-user proposition.’

Blackberry Jam

I have this scary image of discussions around RIM, owners of Blackberry, the messages communicated in geekspeak so that salespersons are able to gain optimal buy-in to the uniqueness of the offering and its platforms.

Anticipation is high

Anticipation is high on a launch believed to be make or break for blackberry. [See also here] Let’s wait a little longer to see if the Geekery justifies the GeekSpeakery


First reviews [31st Jan 2013] suggest that the Z10 is chock fulla design elements . A cunning aspect is (if I understand it) a sort of firewall between stuff for and from its Corporate use and stuff for and from its personal use. Which says to me a neat way of attracting individuals to embrace the Z10 for personal use in a way that can be sold to he Corporate paymasters dishing out the product.