Being interviewed: connect first, control later
9 June 2021
If a journalist asks you a question, they believe that every question they pose will be answered fully, frankly and in detail. However, in order to retain ultimate control over the media interview process, your first instinct should not be to respond to the closed question.
Remember, this is not about answering that which is directly in front of you, it is about managing the opportunity afforded by the ‘set up’.
There has to be some kind of link between the question you’ve been asked and the response you are giving, you can’t just close your ears ignore it and say what you have come to say.
Sometimes it may be necessary to offer an answer of sorts to the question: this often comes with a demand about factual information. However, once delivered you should never resist the opportunity to then move the conversation on by looping back to the position established in your original narrative.
These days there’s a requirement to be creative in your dealings with reporters respecting that the cynical and sceptical audience’s antenna are well tuned to any public figure or corporate spokesperson attempting to skate past the question.
Only by finding a form of words that intrinsically implies recognition of the question either explicitly or implicitly will the recipient listen, believe and act.
The impression you are delivering is that the stimulus for the response that you deliver has been inspired by the question. In reality, it is much more subtle than that: you should never rely on improv in an interview. It’s about variations on a theme originally devised.