This informal CPD article Don’t get distracted! was provided by Brian Weatherley at B2B Media Training, an award-winning trade journalist, video presenter, business-to-business magazine editor and media trainer.
How many times have you ever heard someone being interviewed say: ‘That’s a really interesting question’? Unfortunately, ‘interesting’ questions can blow you seriously off-course in an interview.
For example: You enter your media encounter with three clear messages you want to get over to the journalist. But before you can even get started, they ask you about something you find interesting. And because you do find it so interesting, you then proceed to witter on about it until before you know it your time’s up. After the reporter has gone away you suddenly remember those three key points you wanted to make. So, how many did you make? Three? Two? One? None?
It’s a difficult call, as an interesting question can be the perfect lead-in to a point you want to make, and the perfect excuse for raising it. But it can also take you down a rabbit hole of your own making where you wind up saying far too much about something that’s peripheral to the conversation. The moral? Beware of being distracted!
But how DO you avoid being diverted by an interesting question that’s not relevant? You can start by telling the journalist: ‘If there’s time, I’ll come back to that―but right now I want to talk about something I think is more important to your readers/listeners/followers.’ Of course, you then need to convince them WHY what you want to say matters to their audience. Otherwise, why should they write, tweet, blog or broadcast about it? And if you haven’t got a good reason as to why it’s important don’t be surprised if they don’t cover it.
Naturally, journalists aren’t easily deflected. It’s their job to be persistent. And what you might think is peripheral to your conversation could be at the very heart of what they want to discuss and pursue. It’s not about dodging questions, though. It’s about who sets the agenda in a press encounter that’s liable to be time constrained. So, if you’ve not prepared sufficiently beforehand and haven’t got messages that matter to a journalist, don’t be surprised if they make all the running.
While we’re talking about distraction, before any media encounter, for goodness-sake turn-off your phone! It’s not a good idea to keep telling a journalist: ‘Sorry, can I just answer/look at this?’ At best it wastes valuable time, time you could be using to get those important messages over. At worst it’s disrespectful. You might think you’re multi-tasking, but really, you’re just being side-tracked. If a journalist kept interrupting your flow by answering their phone, how would you feel about it?
Bottom line, if you’re going to talk to a journalist, you’d better have some clear messages in your head and a strategy for getting them over fast. But above-all-else, no matter how ‘interesting’ a question might be, if it’s not immediately relevant to the discussion park it. Then, only if there’s enough time, go back to it. Considering how little time you might have to get your messages over you can’t afford to be distracted…
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