It might surprise you to learn that spokespeople often have different personal views than the ones they are trying to get across on radio, TV or print media.

Politicians in particular sometimes need to tread a narrow path between their party line and what their personal opinions are. This has been seen more recently with interviews about Covid and Brexit.

When Ruth Davies was repeatedly asked about whether teachers should wear masks in the classroom, she struggled to answer this more personal question which diverged from what the government was trying to say. The trouble was that Davies was President of the National Union of Teachers.

Trying to get out of a difficult question with your integrity intact, especially if the interviewer is unwilling to relent as they were in this case. Davies was asked the same question multiple times and the result from the interview was that it went viral on social media.

Being Prepared for Personal Questions

CEOs and spokespeople will almost always have the company line clear in their minds. What they don’t necessarily prepare for is being asked what they ‘personally think’.

If you work for a bank, for example, you might be defending a rise in overdraft charges and then be asked about how you would feel if you were in a low-income group and depended on the flexibility of spending over your limit every month.

You might be a CEO for an energy company and be asked how you would feel if a new powerplant or wind farm was planned near your nice, comfortable in the country. You might be asked, as Matt Hancock was recently, why a friend was given a contract rather than putting it out to tender in the usual way.

It is essential to have an idea of what personal questions are likely to be asked during an interview and how you are going to answer them. As with everything else, preparation is absolutely key and the team at Hawkeye Media are experts in media training to ensure you know how to navigate difficult interview questions.

A Quick Guide to Bridging

The time-honoured way of getting out of a difficult personal question is bridging. The last thing you want to do is give the interviewer the impression that you are avoiding the question, however. It is likely to annoy them and make them think you have something to hide.

A bridging phrase is a way of getting from the difficult question intact and quickly moving the conversation back to easier matters.

In the Ruth Davies example, should have briefly stated that she hadn’t yet come to an opinion and then moved the question back to her main reason for being there, to explain the government’s party line. She didn’t and suffered the consequences.

It is a good idea to take a closer look at your interviewer and find some of their more recent work to see if they ask personal questions. It is essential to do this anyway so that you can be better prepared for every aspect of your interview.

Personal questions can be difficult to manage but they are often asked by journalists, especially when there is a contentious issue to be discussed. In some cases, you may be happy to answer this type of question as fully as possible, even if your personal opinion differs from the company line. In other cases, you may want to artfully move your answer away from this kind of revelation. In both circumstances, it is critical to know what you are going to say and practice beforehand.

Successful online media training can support your team to get the right message out at the right time and handle any unexpected questions that may occur. You can find out more about the media training offered by the experienced team at Hawkeye Media here.