Once you have a media message, you still must answer questions, but how do you do that without losing control of the interview? You don’t want to dodge questions or simply repeat the same message over and over. Members of the media will think you are a moron and will therefore not quote you or use you as a future news source.
You must answer questions, but do so with an agenda and a framework of operating principles. For starters, if a reporter asks you a question that is not directly related to one of your three main message points, guess what? You still have to answer it.
The reporter may ask you about a subject which you know a great deal, only you have already decided it is not one of your main messages on this topic. The average media novice will say, “What the heck?” and then pontificate for 10 minutes on the subject. By now, the reporter has forgotten your main message and will probably never come back to it again.
The trick is to open with a direct, brief answer to any question the reporter asks. Answer the question, but do it in about 10 seconds. Then bridge to the most relevant message point that you have prepared in advance. You need to have the discipline to restrain yourself from talking at length on a subject about which you may know a lot, and for which you may even have great passion. It’s not your job to show people how smart you are, and you must be able to pass up occasional opportunities to “educate” reporters. The art in this is giving just enough information to the reporters so that they don’t feel you are dodging, WHILE making a logical and graceful bridge to one of your points. Then you can talk for another 20 seconds or so on your main points.
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