Month: November 2013

Strategy of Answering Question’s Big Finish: Building Your Spokesperson’s Messages and 11 Keys to Remember

MARYCHUCKLES[1]

For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about The Strategy of Answering Questions; specifically:

But as you may recall from these different posts, we never developed the specific messages. We had several bullet points, but no real messaging surrounding the launch of our sample product or service:

  • Last several years developing, testing and refining new technology
  • Enables consumers to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently
  • Target audience are men and women 35-54 years old; educated; high disposable income
  • Vastly improves existing technology

To get from bullet points to actual compelling messages, review your bullet points. Are these the points you want to make in the interview? These are not the answers to questions you may be asked. These are the points you want to make, the reasons why you agreed to the interview; the points you want your real audience to hear/read/see.

Prepare a mini-speech for each bullet; a headline followed by an example. The headline is your message stated in the strongest possible language. The example is the way to prove your headline.

There are four types of examples you can use:

  1. personal experience
  2. experiences of others
  3. facts/statistics
  4. analogies

Whenever possible, have several examples that support and reinforce your headline. Doing so allows you to repeat your headline without going back to your only proof point. The person you are meeting with may not remember all of your specific examples, but the headline becomes memorable. I don’t recall one “light” or “bridge” but I sure do remember “A thousand points of light” and “building bridges.”

As you think about all things spokesperson training, remember:

  • Think of the questions a  reporter might ask you during an interview.
  • Decide on the best possible response to each question (short and sweet) and then determine whether you can bridge from that answer to one of your objectives. (Use the three-column technique.)
  • If you can bridge, state your message in the form of your prepared mini-speech. If you can’t, state your answer and wait for the next question or say,” I don’t know.”
  • Avoid over-answering the question. Give a direct response to each question in as few words as possible and then bridge, if you can.
  • There is no such thing as “off the record.” Don’t care how good your relationship is with the media or how clever you think you are – – the media will either not honor it, or find another source to verify it.
  • Nodding. People often nod inadvertently to show they understand the question. They’ve heard the question before, and/or they’re ready to answer the question. Unfortunately, nodding also suggests agreement with statements, and that may give a false impression.
  • Labeling the question. Refrain from such expressions as “That’s a good question,” or “I’m glad you asked that.” Those phrases buy time, but they can be irritating.
  • Competitive questions. Be especially careful about questions involving proprietary topics. You can discuss the issues but you don’t have to discuss your strategies.
  • Avoid jargon. Think in terms of simple language understandable to a larger audience.
  • Pick your battles. Stick to your prepared messages. Don’t go off message. Going off message can easily lead to complaints of being taken out of context.
  • Go back to your messages. Often the last question is “Do you have anything to add?” Use this question as the opportunity to reemphasize your message points.

Well, that’s it for Strategy of Answering Questions and it is it for me for a little bit. Need to re-charge the blog-battery so I can take a fresh look at the PR industry. Thank you for taking the time to read. In the immortal words of Chuckles the Clown (circa the greatness of The Mary Tyler Moore Show) – – “A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants.”

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How to Effectively, Seamlessly and Honestly Nail the Interview by Answering the Toughest, Dirty, Trap Media Questions

MOUSETRAP_rend

In my previous blog post, I talked about the how to best prepare messaging for a media interview (or a business meeting) by building a bridge from the question to your message.

But how do you answer the really tough questions? To get started, let’s first review the messages surrounding the launch of our sample product or service:

  • Last several years developing, testing and refining new technology
  • Enables consumers to accomplish tasks faster and more efficiently
  • Target audience is men and women 35-54 years old; educated; high disposable income
  • Vastly improves existing technology

And the possible types of questions:

  • Late to market
  • Too expensive
  • Not going to succeed
  • Already outdated
  • Not needed

My contention is that the toughest trap question is nothing more than a great chance to get your messages across (once you concisely answer the question). Let’s take a look at some of the most common trap questions:

  • A or B Questions:  “Was it poor planning or poor execution that made you guys late to market?” The A or B question is asked in a way that suggests an answer.  However, the options offered may not be the correct response.  You can pick an alternate direct response: Answer:  “Neither. The new technology vastly improves the outdated technology…
  • Hypothetical Questions:  “If this new technology flops, will the company survive?”  The iffy question asks you to predict the future.  This type of question usually asks you to accept the hypothesis. Instead, you can reject the theory and create one of your own.  Thus, the answer is: “That’s not going to happen.  We’ve spent the last several years developing…”
  • Third Party Questions:  You never have to argue with or defend anyone else.  Third parties include but are not limited to: competitors, industry analysts, other people in the company, customers or other industries. The best answer to questions about other people is: “Ask them,” or “I can’t speak for them.” Then you can bridge to the issue in the question by simply saying, “What I can tell you is…”
  • Unfair/untrue Statements:  These questions contain misleading or untrue assertions or the question may include inflammatory words or phrases.  “Why are you charging so much for a technology that is outdated?” Here there are several incorrect statements. You never want to repeat back the negatives, but you can absolutely disagree with the premise. “That’s not true. This technology vastly improves existing technology and we are targeting men and women with a high disposable income…”

While there are certainly other types of “trap questions” that may or may not be designed to trip you up, proper preparation should prevent any of them from becoming an issue. Also, remember there are questions you don’t have to answer – competitive, security, etc.

The process – boiled down – comes down to listening and making sure you understand the question; answering it short and sweet and either bridging to your pre-prepared messages OR answering the question short and sweet and wait for the next question if you don’t have anything relevant to say.

My next and final post in this series will tie everything together by providing message preparation steps and tips.