How to respond to tough media questions for business

Getting a chance to be spotlighted in the media is a great opportunity for a business or organization. It helps you to continually define your company’s story and shape your public image. With a media interview, it’s all about the Questions and the Answers, and sometimes you may get hit with some tough questions. Because the way you respond to these sorts of tough questions can affect your public image, it’s important to know how to handle the harsher spotlight gracefully.

Here are 6 tips for successfully responding to tough questions in a media interview:

1) Be prepared for them – List, Edit, and Narrate to get ready

There are generally 3 types of questions you’ll encounter in an interview.

DELIGHTFUL ONES: Questions you would love to answer, if only you were asked.

DREADED ONES: Tough questions that you need to be ready to answer with ease and confidence.

WEB ONES: Search for what is known in the world about you and your organization. Recognize that every reporter will ‘Google’ you before an interview so make sure there are no surprises.

To prepare for the dreaded or difficult questions, you’ll need to do some homework before your interview. List all the possible questions that you can think of, even using the negative, aggressive language that may be used, to get you accustomed to the way the questions may be delivered. Write down your responses to each in about 75-100 words, or about 30-45 seconds of speaking time. Then rigorously edit and pare those responses down so they are meaningful and memorable, and edited for speaking, not writing. Speak your responses out loud, and record and listen back over them to help the review process. Rehearse them again. Review your responses with trusted colleagues, inside and outside the organization, or even friends or family, to get used to delivery and gauge feedback.

2) Maintain control of what is talked about

In an interview, it’s important to maintain control of where you want it to go. Always answer the question you wish they’d asked first, and if an interviewer or reporter digresses from the points you want to make or what you want to talk about, do briefly answer whatever they asked about, but bridge back to something more important. Keep your eye on the goal and lead your listener from where you are to the place you’d like to be, and bridge out of any trouble and move the conversation forward. Good phrases to use to help you get back to one of your main points: “What a lot of people don’t realize is…”, “The most important thing to know about this is…”, etc.

3) Maintain control of how it’s talked about

In addition to what is talked about, how it’s talked about can be, to an extent, in your control too. Don’t repeat the negative language, instead use positive language to convert negative to positive, and put a positive light on whatever is being discussed. Make your deficit your greatest asset.

4) Be memorable

Know the one thing that you want your audience to take away from your time in the media spotlight. Give your “bottomline” first, then back it up with the facts and anecdotes. Be bold about it, and really have something to say. Exude passion for whatever you’re talking about. You want to deliver a message that really pops, something that really sticks out amongst all the noise of other media coverage and topics.

5) Be quotable

One of the best things you can do in a media interview to is to be quotable. Be bold. Be simple. Give short, punchy statements that can punctuate a reporter’s story for them. Do not deliver a bunch of long-winded, elaborate explanations.

6) Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse

Do not memorize what you are going to say. But do home in on your most important points (or the ones that are going to be the most difficult to respond to), and practice the talking points you want to make about them, over and over and over. Have different friends or family members come at you from different angles and practice fielding their questions and statements.

A media interview can be a great opportunity for your organization. Do these things to work out all the bumbles before you’re on camera, talking to a person who will disseminate whatever you say to thousands of people. If you do the prep work right, the message that is broadcasted then will be the crispest, clearest, most prepared, bold, positive, memorable and quotable message that it can be.