Fielding difficult media questions is no easy task. But with good preparation and sound strategies for responding to reporter inquiries, any spokesperson will be able to more effectively weather the storm.
Regardless of the topic, a spokesperson or company representative should be ready for any tough questions that a journalist might throw his or her way. Learning how to deal with these situations takes time and practice, but below are a few tips to keep in mind as you prep:
This technique has been used for centuries, in which an interviewee avoids repeating a negative and instead “bridges” to their desired message. Phrases include: “What’s important to remember…”, “Let’s not forget…”, “Let’s start from the beginning.” Always try to reframe the question and turn a negative topic into a positive one.
Avoid the “no comment” statement at all costs. If you truly can’t answer the question, because you don’t know the answer, then offer up an expert who can speak to the issue or let the journalist know you will find the answer for them. If you can’t speak about a topic due to legal issues, then simply state, for example, that you are not able to “address that specific point as it is a personnel matter.”
Another technique is to ask the interviewer a question to clarify what they are asking. Oftentimes the second time a question is asked it is more concise and direct. This can help you understand the motivation behind a question. Getting this kind of clarity can help you shift the conversation to the story you want to tell.
Be sure to always prepare for media interviews, whenever possible, and practice your answers with a colleague. Do your best to think through any negative questions that might be asked during the interview. Another way to prepare is to engage a media relations expert who can provide you with customized help and direction, or help to prepare you for dealing with those tough questions.
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