For the last few weeks, we’ve been talking about The Strategy of Answering Questions; specifically:
- Prepping Your Spokesperson is More than Just How to do an Interview
- Strategy of Answering Questions – Three Spokesperson Rights and Three Ways to Answer a Question (All Involve Answering Honestly)
- How the Three-Column Approach is the Best Way to Getting Your Messages Across AND Answering the Reporter’s Question
- How to Effectively, Seamlessly and Honestly Nail the Interview by Answering the Toughest, Dirty, Trap Media Questions
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:
- personal experience
- experiences of others
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.”