Control the Message

Control the Message

Many (and I’m talking many) years ago I participated in a media training workshop sponsored by ESSDACK in Hutchinson. It was presented by Richard Brundage and even..um…many (many) years later I still use the skills I gained.

One of the best tips I learned was how to respond to the reporters’ questions, but then bridge to the information I needed to communicate. This actually is a great method to use in a variety of situations – a question and answer session at a meeting, a presentation before a board or group or a call from a concerned citizen about an issue or crisis.

 It is actually fairly simple. The goal is not to hide the truth, but to control the message.

1.      When faced with a difficult question or one that does not address your key message points, try this approach:

A-Acknowledge the statement (Something like “That’s certainly an issue that is important to our school district…”)

B-Bridge away from the original question to the one you really want to answer (“…and we are continuing to work on that issue…)

C-Convert the question to the key message point or answer you want to give (“…but the real issue is…”)

2.      Especially during media interviews, stop talking after you have answered the specific question. Don’t expand on your answer or keep talking to fill the space. Rambling usually gets you in trouble.

3.      Unless it’s live, reporters almost never run their question, only your answers, so concentrate on giving the answers you want. And don’t repeat the question. Doing that can emphasize the interviewer’s point, not yours.

4.      During a radio or TV interview, don’t be afraid of silence. When they edit the piece they will edit those out. SO…take your time and again, give the answers you want to give.

5.      When called by a reporter, take their name and number and promise to get back to them in a specified amount of time. Go ahead and ask them what kind of information they are looking for. Then take a few moments and gather your thoughts. Jot down a few key points that you want to remember. Then call the reporter back. I had a reporter recently who even offered to call me back later. It was for a radio interview and they needed a good sound bite for a story. I appreciated the gesture!

Five easy steps, clarify your main points prior to speaking or responding, and remember you ABC’s: Acknowledge. Bridge. Convert.

It’s that simple!