Three tips for handling a tough media interview

The hot seat is an uncomfortable place to be, especially when you are being asked to defend your position on a contentious issue or in a crisis. These three tips will help you get through the experience and communicate your points effectively:

1. Nail the first answer
No matter how confronting, the first question is usually your best opportunity to deliver your message and supporting points. Be ready to take it. Follow-up questions are likely to become more narrowly focused and harder to bridge to your message from: it is far better to stake out your territory at the outset.

2. Match your message
If you’re facing a quality or service issue, there’s little point in trying to steer your responses towards a new product offer. Your message needs to be aligned to the issue at hand, otherwise you’ll be accused of avoiding or evading the question. Make sure the message shows an understanding of your audience’s concerns.

3. Keep responses short
Point. Reason. Example. Point. It’s that simple. Long or waffling answers frequently get spokespeople into trouble. When in doubt, re-state your most important message and stop. An interview may look like a conversation but it’s not: don’t speak just to be polite. Crisp, message-focused responses will help you stay in control.

And remember, don’t take it personally. Hostile or provocative questions are asked for a reason: it’s only your answers that count.

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