When you are answering reporters’ questions, you must eliminate complexity. When dealing with the media, complexity is your enemy. It’s not that reporters are stupid (though some are dumb and others are brilliant). It’s just that by the time a reporter tries to read hastily written notes days after the interview, they can jumble things up. Even if the reporter doesn’t mess-up your words, there is always the chance that the editor, copy editor or producer will changes things ever so slightly in such a way that your message becomes totally garbled. It is far better to describe one single tree clearly to a reporter than it is to try to explain the entire forest.
Complex answers typically require a reader, listener or viewer to hear your entire answer in order for your comments to make sense. In the real world, this is no problem. But in the media world, where you instantly lose control over your context, you have no guarantee that your audience will have access to your entire answer. In fact, you can be fairly confident that they will only receive a small part of your answer. That’s the problem.
When giving a complex answer, there is also a tendency to rebut negative premises and dispense with faulty assumptions before putting forth new, positive ideas. Unfortunately, the media may never pick up on the positive ideas; instead, the focus will be on your rehashing real or imagined problems.
It’s not a matter of Keep It Simple Stupid, the old KISS strategy, either. Instead, you should look at it as an intellectual challenge to streamline your answers, getting to the essence of the matter quickly and cleanly. You can’t be stupid to do that, and the process isn’t necessarily simple. But your answers, devoid of complexity, will be much more likely to reach your intended audience.
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