My previous post covered tips for handling media interviews that used these types of questions:
This post will cover these types of questions:
The Naïve Question
This is feigned ignorance or confusion. (Think Colombo.) Examples are “let me get this straight,” ‘I don’t understand this” or “I don’t know what question to ask, so please just tell me about the situation.”
Strategy: Present your message simply but without much elaboration. Follow up with the reporter since he or she may need more than the average amount of help.
The Chummy Question
This is the “just between you and me,” “off the record,” or “don’t worry, I won’t quote you” type of question.
Strategy: Remember that everything is on the record. Even if you’re not quoted, what you say could still get into print. (The reporter could quote another source saying the same thing.) So smile and stay on message.
The False Question
This puts false information into the question to get you to correct it by (hopefully) divulging sensitive information. “I’ve heard you’ll be reporting lower earnings this quarter. What are you going to do about that?”
Strategy: Unless you have publicly released the information, do not reveal anything confidential. Instead repeat your key messages. If possible, cite outside sources that could give the reporter a more accurate view of the facts.
The Know-It-All Question
This is the “I already have the story. I just need a few more facts (or quotes or whatever)” kind of question. This could means that the reporter already has a definite slant on the information, and wants you either to confirm it, or present a contrary view that can be presented negatively.
Strategy: Find out the story angle. Ask who else the reporter has talked to. Do not give more information or confirmation than absolutely needed.
The Good-bye Question
You know the scene. The interview is technically over. The laptop is closed. The pens are put away. And then the reporter asks “just one more question.”
Strategy: The temptation is to think your answer will be off the record. Like everything else, it will be on the record. So stick to your main points irrespective of when the question occurs in the interview.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be able to handle even the most challenging media-interview situation. Do you have other techniques for media interviews? I’d love to hear about them.