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What’s the Next Question?


December 3, 2013

Imagine yourself sitting in a media interview. The reporter asks you a question and you begin to answer. While you are answering, what else is going through your mind? What are you wondering at that moment?

An enormous number of the people I media train confess that they are wondering, “What is the reporter going to ask me next?”

Do you ever find yourself wondering what the next question will be when you are being interviewed?

As a former reporter, I’ll confess that in most interviews, while the person was talking, I was wondering, “What am I going to ask them next?”

The revelation is that in many interviews, both people are wondering what the next question will be and no one is concentrating on the current answer. Therein lies the great opportunity for the spokesperson to control the interview, the reporter and the outcome.

As a reporter, my mind was searching for the next question because the interviewee was not providing me with useable quotes or information. The answer was likely filled with rambling jargon and details that would never appear in my report. Therefore, I was wondering how to phrase the next question in order to generate a useable quote and get to the heart of the story.

Here are two things you can do to capitalize on this opportunity. First, stop going into interviews with bulleted talking points, which result in bad ad-libs. If your spokesperson enters an interview with well-planned and practiced, verbatim quotes, then the spokesperson can concentrate on the current answer.

What’s Next?

The second great opportunity is for a spokesperson to know how to create a short cliffhanger at the end of their planned response. A cliffhanger, when executed correctly, leaves the reporter wanting to know more and compels the reporter to ask a logical, follow-up question.

Sample cliffhangers are phrases such as:

  • “I think people would be shocked if they knew what the potential danger is...”
  • “I think many people would be surprised to know the top two ways to reduce their electric bill...”
  • “I think people would be surprised if they knew what improvements we have made...”

This requires a higher level of media training and practice by the spokesperson, but most reporters will want to ask a follow-up question.

If the reporter moves on to a new topic, then the spokesperson has to be ready to interject the answer planned for the cliffhanger before moving on to the reporter’s redirected topic.

The finesse is to know your answer and know when to stop talking. You must know how to create the cliffhanger and know the answer to the follow-up question that you’ve compelled the reporter to ask.

When you do this correctly, you are controlling the answers and the questions.

If the interview is live on TV, where both the reporter and the spokesperson have a fear of looking stupid, then both will come across as articulate and intelligent when the spokesperson applies this technique.

You can shift to focusing on your answers and never again wonder, “What are they going to ask me next?”

 

Gerard Braud Gerard Braud is the author of “Don’t Talk to the Media Until… 29 Secrets You Need to Know Before You Open Your Mouth to a Reporter.” Leaders rely on Braud to be their expert for media training and crisis communications (braudcommunications.com). Twitter: @gbraud.



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