In previous posts I’ve given some tips on handling the media interview. Here are some strategies for specific situations.
In this post I’ll cover the following types of questions:
The Speculative Question
Beware of questions beginning with “if,” which pose a hypothetical choice. Sometimes such questions pose the “dirty dilemma,” where you are given a choice of unacceptable alternatives (e.g., “When did you stop beating your wife?”).
Strategy: Expose the question as speculation and return to the facts. So, if asked what you’ll do if sales don’t improve, you could respond: “That is a hypothetical question. We’re working to make sales do improve and we’re seeing progress in that area.”
The Leading Question
This type of question telegraphs an unexpected answer. “Were you surprised by the judge’s ruling?”
Strategy: Bridge to your key messages, restructure the question, or both. “My personal reaction is not important. What is important is that… .”
The Loaded Question
This type of question is designed to provoke an angry or defensive response. The question often includes allegations from others (who may be unidentified). “Some people say you can’t be trusted. How do you respond?” Some reporters love these types of questions because they can make for great drama. (Think 60 Minutes.)
Strategy: Stay cool, and don’t acknowledge or repeat the accusation. Counter and bridge, giving the facts simply and unemotionally. “People who know me know I can be trusted. And I am honored by the trust of more than 300 employees and our thousands of customers worldwide.”
This is designed to get you to keep talking and perhaps reveal something you shouldn’t.
Strategy: Whoever breaks the silence loses so stay silent until someone else speaks. I personally know how effective this technique can be. Years ago, I was in a most unpleasant meeting where, after a series of accusations, the room became silent. No one spoke for what seemed like an eternity (although it probably was about 10 minutes). Finally one side broke the silence and, not coincidentally, ended up the weaker for it.
Hope this information is helpful. My next post will cover these types of questions: