Effective media spokespeople realize that it’s not the questions that can get them into trouble, Rather, it’s their answers. How can you avoid Q&A malpractice? Try these suggestions:
- Anticipate and prepare for routine questions you should expect in nearly every interview. Too often, this is where people get tripped up.
- Prepare for hot button issues. These are the negative questions that run the risk of steering you away from your story. Acknowledge the query, build a bridge, and return quickly to your message.
- Remain silent once you have completed your answer. Don’t let the reporter use the silent treatment to bait you into saying something you’ll regret seeing in print (this was one of my favorite techniques during my days as a reporter).
- Take advantage of regular media training checkups to ensure your skills remain sharp and you don’t pick up any bad habits. True pros follow this path to lifelong learning.
- Debrief your performance immediately after each interview. Ask your public relations advisor to assess your performance.
- Aim to understand what a reporter’s day is like. When you realize they face unforgiving deadlines and cranky editors and news directors, you can better help them tell your story.
- Update your media strategy to take into account recent developments like the minute-by-minute news cycle in which news is posted immediately on the web and social media.
- Never become defensive. Your defensiveness tells them they have struck a nerve and they will soon be circling for the kill.
- Stay away from simple “yes” or “no” answers. Speak in full sentences and state things in your own words while giving the reporter your quotable quote.
- Refuse to let a friendly approach on the reporter’s part lure you into saying something you didn’t intend. Remember, this is a business deal not a friendly chat.
Your turn. What other media stratagems do you advise?