When you’re talking with reporters or bloggers, it’s important to answer their questions clearly and concisely. Unfortunately, certain types of questions can trip you up, reducing your chances of getting great coverage and, even worse, increasing your chances of getting negative publicity.
In this post, I’ll explain four types of tricky questions-speculative, leading, loaded and naïve-and suggest ways to deal effectively with them.
The Speculative Question
Beware of questions beginning with “if” which, by definition, are hypothetical. Sometimes such questions pose the “dirty dilemma,” giving you a choice of unacceptable alternatives (e.g., “When did you stop beating your wife?”).
Strategy: “Label” the question as being speculative and state 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 sure 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 often includes allegations from others (who may be unidentified). The question is designed to provoke an angry or defensive response. “Some people say you can’t be trusted. How do you respond?” This type of question is popular among certain reporters because it can make for great drama.
Strategy: Stay cool, and don’t acknowledge or repeat the accusation. Counter and bridge, giving the facts simply and unemotionally. “The people I work with know I can be trusted. I am honored by the trust of more than 300 employees and our thousands of customers worldwide.”
The Naïve Question
This is feigned ignorance or confusion. “I don’t understand” or “I don’t have a specific question, so please just tell me about the situation.” Reporters might use this approach if they want to find out what you’ll volunteer in an open-ended discussion.
Strategy: Present your message simply and succinctly.
I hope you find this information helpful. In a future post I will cover these types of questions:
- And a bonus tip.