Deputy Prime Minister visits Waddington: Media Minding on a Major Scale…


You may be aware that on 3rd November, the Deputy Prime Minister (DPM), The Right Honourable Nick Clegg, visited RAF Waddington to thank those who deployed and supported operations over Libya during Operation ELLAMY. What you may not know is that he was accompanied by over 70 journalists, camera crew, broadcast vans and photographers.

Whilst orchestrating the arrival, hosting and departure of almost every front line aircraft type in the RAF along with their military trained crews, the Media Office was charged with looking after the flock of national, regional and specialist media all with a different agenda, deadline and angle.

To the aid of the Media Office came volunteers from across the Station to take the posts of media minders. Volunteers from 8 Squadron, 5(Army Cooperation) Squadron, 51 Squadron and Base Support Wing, were given a short combat-ready brief 12 hours before their arrival.

The rough guide to media, minding: looking after your talent (interviewees), effective timekeeping and safety (it was on an airfield!)

In the background, the Media Office continued to receive more requests for attendance; the list got bigger. Planning continued on the division of tasks, areas of responsibility and priority. Of course this could not be finalised until 3pm the day before the visit, as this was when the door was shut on the media invites (except those who would simply just turn up the next day…)

On the day of the event, the new media team had now grown from 2 to 27 personnel with an additional 3 from Air Command, 3 from the Ministry of Defence, and Media Officers from Wittering, Marham and Coningsby. Also at the ready were 2 coaches, 1 mini bus, 3 estates and 100 packed lunches.

The media arrived and after being efficiently bussed to the Nettleton Room were briefed and introduced to their media minders. The big players (ITN, BBC, Sky, Channel 4) were given their own minders; 2 if they had brought their outside broadcast vans. Master Aircrew Paul Edwardes was tasked with the very important responsibility of Officer in Charge of lunch boxes. The remaining minders were then distributed across the media hot spots.

The visit of the DPM was slick and well choreographed. The media, as anticipated, frequently literally stepped outside of the brief, crossing bombs, bullets and ropes to get the perfect photo shot. media minders were on hand to ‘assist’ as required.

Continuing with his tour, the DPM was closely followed by the cameras, who were followed even more closely by the minders. Everyone was (still) smiling. Concluding his tour, the DPM gave 15 minutes to the media for interviews… with a Sentry aircraft and aircrew backdrop of course.

After the DPM’s departure, the media were then allowed to revisit the hotspots to get the interviews, shots and pieces to camera they needed. Journalists were able to look inside and film some of the aircraft with specialists on hand to help. Finally at 3pm the last of the media departed and life returned to some level of normality at RAF Waddington. The Media Team debriefed and dispersed ready for the next call to action.

The event was well represented on the national lunchtime news including live interviews. Later on in the day as is the case with the news world, the Euro-zone issues began to overtake events. The local and specialist papers, however, continued to feature the event as did the internet. RAF Waddington certainly took the Lion’s share of the media exposure.

By Flight Lieutenant Daz Scales.

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