Sometimes a reporter will bombard you with three, four, even five questions in a row. This may be a strategy to rattle you and make you crumble. More often, this is not some grand strategy on the part of reporter. Instead, the questions-in-a-bunch simply reflects the reporter’s disorganized thought process regarding that topic at that moment.
As the interviewee, it is in your best interest to think like a strategic communicator when this happens, rather than a scintillating conversationalist. A scintillating conversationalist picks the most interesting question to answer, preferably one that will allow him or her to show a breadth and depth of knowledge. Next, the scintillating conversationalist tries to be helpful, well organized, all-encompassing and a bit professorial by saying something like, “Let me take your fourth question first, your third question second,” etc. This is how a lot of normal, intelligent, rational people speak; however, it is an extraordinarily counterproductive strategy if your goal is to get your message out through the media.
The skilled communicator never loses sight of the primary objective of the interview: getting the message out of his or her mouth and into the final story. This should color every decision and thought process throughout the interview. So when a reporter tosses out multiple questions at once, the skilled communicator is thinking only the following thought: “What is the ONE question of all those just asked that leads most quickly and easily back to one of my three message points?” That is the only thought going on in our media master’s head. The skilled communicator is NOT thinking any of the following questions:
• “Which question is easiest to answer?”
• “Which question allows me to showcase my knowledge base the best?”
• “Which question is intellectually challenging?”
• “In which order should I answer the questions?”
The skilled media communicator doesn’t worry about the order in which to answer the questions because he or she is only going to answer one question: the one that leads most easily back to central message points.
That doesn’t mean the media master is afraid to answer the other questions or is trying to dodge them. If the reporter wants to re-ask particular questions, that’s OK. But half the time the reporter won’t do so because he or she will now be focused on asking follow-up questions based on the messages put forth in the previous answer. In this way the media master has successfully gained control of the interview.
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