For many corporate spokespeople, the prospect of facing an antagonistic reporter can cause long, sleepless nights and even longer media training sessions. But in reality these reporters should be no more difficult to work with than friendly reporters. You just need to some insight into their inner workings so you are well prepared to meet them head on. Check out these three tricks reporters use to get spokespeople to say more than they want and how to make sure you are ready to deal with them.
Photo by Robert H. Goun via Flickr
1. I’m on deadline…
Reporters know they have to show some balance in their stories by asking for opposing points of view. By catching you off guard with this tactic, they are hoping you might just say something damaging or at least provide a ‘no comment’ comment, which often looks like you’re attempting to cover something up anyway. Don’t fall for this approach. Share that you would be glad to speak with them but that now isn’t a good time. Offer to call them back within the hour and use that that time establishing your keys messages, reviewing recent stories by the reporter and anticipating some of the tough questions you might be asked.
2. Multiple questions in one
Another tactic to catch you off guard and get you to share information you are not prepared to offer is to ask you multiple questions at once. This can be quite confusing as you struggle to determine the best response to the wide range of questions. Don’t take the bait. Listen to the questions and pick the one that you are most comfortable answering. If the reporter really wants answers to the other questions, they will ask again more directly. Remember that you do not have to answer every question that is asked. If a reporter asks about something you don’t want to answer, tell him/her politely that you’re not comfortable answering that question and bridge to something you do want to say.
3. Dead air
If you’re like me, pregnant pauses are almost as uncomfortable as labor. But don’t be fooled; this is just another trick some reporters use to get you to share more than planned by filling the conversation void. To be fair, some reporters may just be reviewing the list of questions they want to ask, but either way, don’t talk out of turn no matter how tempted you are. Provide your official answer and wait them out. If you have to say something, try something like “if that is all you have for me, I’ll let you go.”