Media Coach Training Tip: Control the Interview Questions with Leading Answers

I want you to think for a moment about the last interview you did with a reporter. The reporter asks you a question then you start talking. Think very carefully now – what were you wondering the entire time you were answering the question?

In most cases, my media training students will confess that the entire time they were talking, they were thinking, “I wonder what the reporter is going to ask me next.”

Well here’s a little confession – Most of the time while I was a reporter, the entire time people were answering my question I was wondering what I was going to ask them next.

This means that in most interviews, both people are distracted, wondering what the next question will be and therefore neither is really concentrating on what the current answer is.

Therein lies the biggest problem in most interviews and therefore the greatest opportunity.

Gerard Braud Communications Expert Interviewing tipsHere is what you need to know about reporters to fully understand how the interview will go down. In most cases, the reporter has no written, prepared questions before the interview. And chances are the reporter has not done an extensive amount of advanced research.

If you are dealing with an investigative reporter or a television network news magazine, you can expect the reporter has done more research and has some specific questions to ask. But in your average interview for your average story I would estimate that 80-90% of the time, the reporter is going to make up the questions on the spot when the interview begins.

The interview will start with “soft” questions, designed to help you relax and get into your comfort zone. As the interview progresses, the questions will become more direct and possibly more negative.

But here is the big secret – How you answer the current question will dictate what the next question is. Even more specifically, the words you use at the end of your answer will often be used by the reporter to craft the next question.

In other words, the reporter will mirror your language right back to you in a form of a question. For example, if my final words are, “…the challenges we’ll face next year will eclipse the challenges we face this year…” what do you think the next question will be?  The reporter will ask, “What are the challenges you expect to face next year?”

To test this theory, watch a TV news anchor talking to the reporter who is live on the scene of an event. The anchor will ask a question and the reporter will repeat part of the question back to the anchor as part of their answer.

Mary the Anchor: “Bob, it sure looks like a disaster zone out there…”

Bob the Reporter: “It sure is a disaster zone out here Mary…”

I’ve developed a system for crafting answers that foreshadows the things that I want to talk about in an interview, followed by a “cliff hanger” or a sentence that creates some suspense. The trick is to always stop short of giving all of the details about something and to make the reporter want to know more. You want to make the reporter ask you a logical follow up question.

Observe news anchors tossing questions to reporters on live locations and in your next interview try to create a few “cliff hangers” that will make the reporter ask you the logical follow up question that you want.

This technique makes life easy for the reporter because they never have to think very hard about their next question. You, therefore, are controlling the interview and the questions. The reporter is just following along.

Media Training Coach Tip: The Top 4 Reasons Media are Considered Biased

There is much debate about whether the media are biased; especially whether there is a liberal bias. If you truly want to explore that subject, I suggest you read the book Bias by Bernard Goldberg. (http://www.amazon.com/Bias-Insider-Exposes-Media-Distort/dp/0895261901)

It has been my experience over the years that much of what is perceived as bias is really the result of the following:Gerard Braud Communication tips for media photo

• Editors send reporters out of the door armed with only partial facts or rumors

• The reporters and editors have misconceptions or misperceptions about you or your issues

• A competitor or opponent of yours has approached the media and only told them half of the story

• Ignorance by the reporter

All four of the above result in the reporter calling you, asking for an interview, asking you negative questions, and putting you in a defensive posture.

Let’s break it down.

Partial facts are usually the result of rumors and innuendos. We all share rumors every day. “Hey, you know what I heard today…?”  In the newsroom, a reporter or editor turns that rumor into a research project and must confirm or refute it. “Hey Gerard, I heard a rumor today that… Why don’t you go check it out?”

That rumor would become my assignment for the day. If there is a rumor that the mayor is on cocaine, then I try to prove that the mayor is using cocaine. If he is, it is a story. If he isn’t, then there is no story.  If the rumor is that the married congressman has a girlfriend, then I try to prove the congressman has a girlfriend. If it is true, I have a story. If I can’t prove it, then there is no story.

You may not like it, but it is the nature of the business.

The next issue is very similar; it’s the impact of a misconception or misperceptions. Often this is purely subjective. Perhaps you are proposing a new development, but something just seems shady. Then the news report may likely reflect a tone of skepticism. The reporter may even seek out a 3rd party who is willing to cast further doubt on your project or credibility.

On the issue of opponents – I’ve watched many opponents make compelling cases and provide an enormous amount of supporting material and a hefty helping of innuendo. In the U.S. they’re often called “opposition groups” while around the world they are called “NGOs,” which stands for non-government organizations.

Usually the members of these groups are very passionate about a specific issue and those issues may be considered liberal issues. If a member of one of these groups makes a compelling case to a reporter, they could trigger a news report about you or your company. The reporter may come armed with reams of documentation supplied by the opponent, placing you in a defensive position. The resulting story could portray you in a very negative light.

And the final issue is ignorance by the reporter. Sometimes reporters just get the wrong idea about something and pursue it as a negative story. For example, most reporters look at steam belching from an industrial facility and think they are seeing pollution. Hence, they may do a story about industry polluting and fill the report with images of the stack belching what looks like smoke.

When you are faced with a situation like this, you need to explain everything to them in simple terms the way you would explain it to a 6th grade class at career day.

Chances are the media are not “out to get you.” But somebody else may be out to get you and they are letting the media do their dirty work.

Media Training of the Future for Your Emergency Operations Center, Emergency Manager, and Public Information Officer

How to Improve Your Crisis Communication During a Disaster

It was a surprise to many Emergency Managers and Public Information Officers. After being in demand for telephone interviews during Tropical Storm Lee on September 3-5, 2011 near New Orleans, The Weather Channel opted to start taking live reports from a resident on the front porch of his home on Lake Pontchartrain in Mandeville, LA. In some instances, the live reports from this citizen were more compelling and ran higher in the broadcast than The Weather Channel’s own reporter in New Orleans.

That resident is Gerard Braud (Jared Bro). Yes, I’m that Gerard Braud — a former storm chaser and television reporter turned media trainer and crisis communications trainer.

Gerard Braud Crisis Communications Flood Photo

So how and why did the Weather Channel select me. Well, I knew I was seeing something more compelling than anyone else was offering to the network and my journalistic instincts kicked in. I could show images of waves crashing out of Lake Pontchartrain, flooding streets and yards.

I was also able to use the newest technology to bring viewers across the nation directly into the rising floodwaters, while Emergency Managers and Public Information Offices were locked inside Emergency Operations Centers using old technology, otherwise known as the telephone.

Every Emergency Manger and Public Information Officer needs to recognize times are changing and they must change with those times. They must adopt a combination of new Media Training techniques that also teach how to use new technology such as iPhones, iPads and Skype software, in order to report live on the scene for the media.

If you would like to learn more, please download this article that explains how Emergency Managers, Emergency Operations Centers and Public Information Officers can master this new technology as part of their Crisis Communications Plan.

Executive Media Training 101 from Gerard Braud to Kanye West

by Gerard Braud

gerard@braudcommunications.com
www.braudcommunications.com
www.crisiscommunications.com

Kanye West — You were on Jay Leno last night. Your had a chance. You blew it. So here’s a free Media Training 101 course — Your key message should have been, “I’m sorry.” In 3 minutes on the air you never got around to saying those simple words. It should have been the first words out of your mouth.

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