Media interviews can throw up some unexpected questions that mean you have to think about it a bit before answering. Then there are those tricky question types that can be a real hole you can fall into if you have not had the right media training to enable you to identify and answer these trickier questions.
Learning how to handle these types of questions and have some ideas on how to answer them is a big part of handling the media. Here are some examples of question types you need to be able to identify and then and some ideas about how to tackle them if you are asked.
An implied answer question
This is one of those questions that seems like it answers itself and doesn’t leave you anywhere to add your own comment. This can be tricky, especially if the question is phrased in a negative way. The key to answering it is to do it without being too defensive – we all naturally go on the defensive when we feel someone is having a go at us. Instead, politely negate the statement or the implication and follow it with some positive statement. Tie it into your overall message or your story and move things in a better direction.
Sometimes you will get questions that are essentially the same question phrased in a different way. They may be trying to trip you up and make you contradict yourself, get a different answer or just not realise. The key to this is to not call them out on repeating an earlier question but instead use a slightly different answer that says the same things. And stay calm – don’t let them get you flustered!
Controversy sells, and journalists will often look to ask questions about competitors in the hope that you say bad things about them. After all, a good argument between competitors makes for a great story. But don’t be the one bad-mouthing the competition, no matter how irritating you find their approaches. Instead, switch the question to your own strengths or qualities, the things your company do and don’t really talk about the competition.
The hypothetical question
Those ‘what if’ scenarios are ones that journalists love to throw into an interview because they get interesting answers and they are almost impossible to prepare for. The key to answering these types of questions is not to get drawn into speculation or rumours. Talk about the facts, stating that you don’t comment on theories or that is impossible to answer hypothetical scenarios.
The question you don’t know the answer to
This is the one that everyone dreads – what if they ask something and you have no idea what to say? There’s a good chance you will run into it and don’t worry. For starters, preparation before the interview will help with lots of ideas to questions you will expect. And you can also find this will stimulate ideas for those less predictable questions.
While doing the interview, don’t be afraid to take a moment to think about a question. You don’t have to reply instantly and showing thought about the answer shows you really care. And if you really can’t answer it, tell them you will find out and get back to them with that information. Honesty is the best policy!