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- Already outdated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 The new technology vastly improves the outdated technology…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 “Why are you charging so much for a technology that is outdated?”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.