Despite all the best preparation, there will be times when you get asked a question in a media interview that you just don’t know the answer to. This can be a frightening experience if you are not prepared for it.
There is the temptation to try and fashion an answer when this happens and that’s mainly down to not wanting to appear unprepared or foolish. It’s certainly one of the main issues that those undertaking media interviews think and worry about.
But is there anything wrong with simply saying that you don’t know the answer to a question?
BBC presenter Nick Robinson recently wrote in the Radio Times that politicians, in particular, shouldn’t be afraid to say they can’t answer a question. Rather than trying to fumble an inadequate response, the far better option could be to just admit that you don’t know.
Saying ‘I Don’t Know’ Is Often the Best Option
Media interviews can be stressful events, especially if you are playing defence to protect your business. Most people want to appear confident and look like they know what they are talking about.
You may not know the answer to a particular question, or you might just have a momentary brain fade where you can’t recall the right response. It’s important to practice how you are going to behave if this happens and give yourself confidence in any interview situation.
While you should try to avoid saying that you don’t know the answer, it’s not a bad strategy as long as it’s not overused. It won’t affect the perception of your expertise and it’s a more honest approach than simply trying to waffle your way through an answer.
It also allows you to go back to your team or do some research to get a definitive answer for the journalist.
It’s important, however, not to just say ‘I don’t know’ and leave that hanging there. Your response should always be followed up with something more substantive to get your point of view across. You might add ‘but I can tell you this…” and go on to talk about what you do know. This is where the training that Hawkeye Media provide is so valuable to any organisation that deals with the media.
In truth, journalists understand that you may not have the answer to every question and that’s particularly true if they are moving away from the central theme of the interview and looking to broaden the scope. It’s important not to get drawn into speculation that may come back to haunt you at a later date.
Some people make the mistake of trying to cover all bases, turning up at an interview with copious notes that they hope will provide them with the answers to all searching questions. On the surface, this isn’t such a bad idea, but it can mean the spokesperson sounds like they are reading off a script or ends up fumbling for a response.
It is better to accept that you will be unable to answer some questions. The key is to keep this down to a minimum by doing the right preparation before the interview. To discuss how Hawkeye Media can upskill your team and give them the confidence to navigate any media interview contact us today.