Media Training Worldwide

7 Tips to Answer the Questions in a Media Interview?

You’ve to be extra careful when answering questions in a media interview because the reporter can take only a sentence or even half of the sentence from your answers for the final story. And that sentence can be taken out of context to make you look best or in most cases, foolish, ill-informed, and insensitive. 

You don’t want that, right? That’s why I’m here to help. 

In this article, I’m going to tell you a few proven tips and strategies on how to perfectly answer questions in a media interview. 

  1. Pick the Easiest Questions to Answer 

It just happens that the report asks you three, four, or even more questions in a single go. And you feel intimidated, stressed, and think that “Oh, what if I miss this or if I can’t answer that.”  

No, you don’t want to do that. 

Remember that the reporter is not trying to intimidate you, they’re just thinking out loud. So, you don’t have to act like a smart college professor here and answer all questions one by one. 

Don’t answer the most interesting question first. Don’t answer the most challenging question first. 

Your goal is to get messages you care about, the messages you’ve prepared, right?

So, the best thing to do is listen to all the questions strategically and pick the one EASIEST question that helps you get to your message points. 

If you successfully get back to your message points, you’re giving the report more interesting ideas. They will forget the previous questions and ask you more follow-up questions about your message. And that is exactly what you want. 

  1. Use a Cheat Sheet without Getting Caught 

Always have a sheet that contains your top three messages when going for a media interview because it’s easy to remember anything when it’s on a sheet or a paper. 

So, have a cheat sheet and just STARE at that.  

If it’s a telephonic or video interview when no reporter is present, then you should be staring at the paper or computer screen with your messages all the time. 

But when you’re doing a TV interview, stare at it right before the interview starts. Look at it on your way to the studio, in your make-up room, before the camera rolls, and during commercial breaks. 

Remember that you don’t want to look at the cheat sheet during the interview on TV- it’s when you should be looking at the report or in the camera. 

  1. Don’t Repeat Negative Words of the Reporter 

Are you a crook? “No, I’m not a crook.”

Do you teach people how to lie? “No, I don’t teach people how to lie.”

Are you going bankrupt? “No, I’m not going bankrupt.”

NO! Don’t do that. Don’t repeat the negative words of the reporter when they ask you a negative question. 

USE YOUR OWN WORD. 

I’m not saying dodge the questions. Just answer wisely and smartly. Be careful of your choice of words. 

That’s because the report can emphasize the negative word and people would only notice that word skimming the context. 

Simply put, don’t tell people what you ODD, tell them what you ARE. 

So, a reporter asks “Are you a crook?” Simply say, “I’m proud that I’ve always conducted my business ethically and honestly.” That’s an answer without using the negative word. Cool!? 

  1. Never Lose a Media Debate by Not Debating 

Don’t debate a reporter on their questions. Don’t debate them on their assumptions. Don’t tell them that they’re stupid or wrong or you don’t agree with their assumptions.

This DOESN’T work. Wasting your time correcting the report just makes you look like a child. It doesn’t help you accomplish your goal. And your goal is to get the exact message you want in the final story, not to win a debate. That’s it. 

So, don’t quibble with the report. Just listen and think of your message point that’s close to what the report has said and answer it in a positive context. 

  1. Don’t be Afraid to Say ‘I Don’t Know’ 

What’s the best answer you can possibly give when dealing with the news media? 

I don’t know! 

Yes, that’s it. I mean literally say ‘I don’t know’. 

If the reporter asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, quite often the best response is ‘I don’t know’. 

But don’t just stop there! Don’t stop with an awkward silence. Instead, bridge it to what you do know that’s relevant and takes you closer to your message.

Remember that you don’t want to play the GUESS game here. Because if you guess incorrectly, you’ve misled the report, thus the viewers, listeners, or readers of what’s got in the final story.  And you may destroy your credibility if the reporter finds out and it turns out not to be TRUE.

Likewise, you don’t have to look or sound embarrassed. Say it confidently and bridge to what you know. 

  1. Always Move Towards Your Message Points 

In an interview, it just happens that the reporter asks you irrelevant or tough questions because they’re too nice, smart or friendly. 

You don’t have to dig deep and answer the questions in detail. And you don’t have to ignore them either. 

Just answer briefly and then bridge the conversation to your message points. Move to your first message point, then to your second message point, and then your final message point.  

And remember your messages should be interesting to you, your report, and your audience. 

Read: How to Create the Perfect Media Message  

  1. Hit All Three Messages in Each Answer 

The best way to increase the chances of getting your desired messages in the final story is to hit all three messages in every single answer. 

But how can you do that without sounding insane?

The key is to not do it in a memorized way. Don’t say it word for word the same or in the same order. Rather, mix it up and thematically hit the same three points. It means that you can use different words, different levels of abstraction, and different examples but to deliver the same messages while sounding conversational. 

And remember that you don’t have to give concise answers. Your goal is to get the messages you want in the final story, so be detailed about them. 

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So, these are some proven tips that can help you answer the question perfectly in a media interview. Are you ready to rock your next media interview with these tips?

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