25 Feb, 2020
Media Communications - STOP, THINK, SPEAK
This informal CPD article on Stop, Think, Speak was provided by B2B Media Training, an award-winning trade journalist, video presenter, business-to-business magazine editor and media trainer.
So there you are, sitting in a meeting with a group of senior managers when suddenly the Chief Executive or Chairman turns to you and says: “What do YOU think of this situation?” You straighten-up in your seat, lean forward, open your mouth…and what comes out? Hopefully, a fluent, incisive and articulate response that has everyone looking at you in an-altogether new light. Let’s hope so.
No need to rush
All-too-often by rushing to provide an answer we simply show how little we know. It’s understandable. We’re all programmed to respond to questions and feel inadequate if we can’t answer them immediately. However, better to be wise after an event rather than trying to be wise before it. If a journalist asks “So what happens now?”, and you’ve no idea, what are your chances of guessing right?
I don’t know yet
It’s hard admitting you can’t answer a question, because you don’t know. Only sometimes you just have to tell a journalist: “It’s too early to speculate. Come back later when more of the facts are known.” Now there’s the rub. Our modern world of 24-hours rolling news coverage demands constant updating. Yet trying to come up with a definitive response while the balls are still in-play is a risky business. Bill Gates once famously said: “I don’t know’ has become ‘I don’t know yet.” He’s right. Better to gather all the facts together first, then talk to the press.
The key to any successful media encounter is proper preparation, ‘doing your homework’, knowing your subject. You may be the sort of super-confident person who’s happy to busk their way through a press interview—but I wouldn’t recommend it. Without facts to support a narrative what’s left can be little more than conjecture or supposition, and if you’re wrong what then? If a journalist can’t trust you to provide reliable information they’ll be less likely to come back to you in the future. Again, there’s no shame is requesting more time before answering.
You need to consider x, y and z…
Our world is seldom black or white. There are far more shades and nuances than we admit. Unfortunately, journalists in a hurry usually want binary ‘yes/no’ answers to binary questions. But do you want to, or more importantly, can you give them one? If you can’t, say so and explain why. “It’s really not as simple as you suggest. You need to consider x, y and z…” Who knows? They may learn more from your answer than they expected.
Stop, think, prepare and respond
The lesson we’ve all learned from social media is that saying the first thing that comes into your head isn’t necessarily a good idea. It’s the same with press interviews. If you know the answer, and have the facts which prove your point, go for it. Otherwise, stop, think, prepare and then respond. ‘No comment right now’ might not suit a journalist’s timescale, but your challenge is to say the right thing at the right time. And if a journalist thinks you’ll deliver something worth hearing, they’ll be more willing to wait for it…
We hope this article was helpful. For more information from B2B Media Training, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.