Media training is a critical skill as you move up in an organization. It can serve anyone well to learn techniques to handle yourself in any verbal situation. If you will be interfacing with reporters, training is essential. If your organization has internal communications staff, reach out and ask if they have a formal training you can do, and whether one of them would spend a few sessions with you. Review their tips, and practice.
There are excellent tricks to politely not answer questions when being interviewed. Here are a few.
- Control the messaging. Do this while appearing to be engaging and responsive. Have certain messages to share, and use transition statements to pivot to what you want to say. For example: “I am not the right person to answer that. But let me tell you about our latest achievement on a related note…” Or: “We are here today to discuss and celebrate: [state your announcement or key message]. We can have someone follow up on your question.” Or: “I’m not in the business of speculation, so I will not make a prediction. What I do think is key to understand here is that we are moving forward on this product, regardless of what happens with that situation.” Or: “There are lots of unknowns about where this will go. What we do know is…”
- Smart use of pauses and transferring. Instead of answering, pause and see if the questioner continues, or moves on. If you have a communicator with you, pause and signal visually to her to jump in. She may be wanting to jump in to help cut off a risky line of conversation, and if you do not pause enough she will not be able to help.
- Punt back to the interviewer. “‘I’m not in a position to answer that at this time. What are you hearing out in the field?”
- Answer only the question that is asked. Do not ramble. And do not fill silence. Reporters will leave long pauses knowing that people are uncomfortable with silence, and that often results in talking.
- Exit gracefully. On the phone: “So sorry but I have got to go, I am late for my next meeting. Thanks. Cheers.” In person: “I hope we covered everything! I look forward to seeing the piece. Feel free to reach out to my communicator for more info.” Shake hands and exit the room.