In sports, it’s often said “the best defense is a good offense.”
This is true, too, when it comes to tackling media interviews, especially the tough ones.
So when an issue (such as a product recall, a strike, a plant closing or a layoff) arises for your organization and you’re faced with media interviews, here’s a play-by-play on how best to handle things:
- First, if there is some human impact (and there usually is), try to genuinely, honestly and briefly express your concern and empathy for those affected. Then, focus on what you are doing to offer those impacted some assistance or what you’re doing to prevent this situation from reoccurring.
- Go into the interview knowing what three to four key messages you want to deliver and make sure they are pro-active, positive and pertinent.
- Keep your cool. Even if you feel you have the right to lose your temper or get defensive, don’t. Be calm, be diplomatic and show your genuine concern and compassion.
- Prepare for the worst. Think about the most negative questions a reporter can ask, then practice answering those questions.
- Tackle any negative questions carefully – rather than ignore them or become flustered by them – using the following approach:
- First, acknowledge the question – without repeating any inflammatory or loaded words.
- Second, use a bridge to one of your key messages. For example:
- “However …”
- “The real issue is …”
- “Another way to look at it is …”
- “Let me put that in perspective …”
- “Actually, our research shows …”
- “What many of our customers find …”
- “There’s something else to consider …”
- “It’s important to focus on …”
- Then state one of your key pro-active, positive messages.
If you’re prepared, you can make your next tough interview a win-win for all involved.
One final play: No matter how tempted you are, never say “no comment.” To a reporter, “no comment” can be considered an admission of guilt. You can almost always say something, which in these situations is better than saying nothing at all.
What are the best substitutes for “no comment” that you’ve heard or used?