- Keep your messages clear, concise and consistent (the 3C’s).
- Know your audience, and focus on what’s important to them rather than what’s important to your agency or client.
- Use questions as a springboard to get to what you want to talk about. In other words, if you don’t like the question, make up your own and answer it. Politicians are great at this.
- Look for opportunities to use transition phrases, such as “The real issue is…” or “What I can tell you about XYZ is . . .” or “What I’m here to discuss today is…” or “What’s important to know about XYZ is…”
- When responding to questions, you don’t necessarily need to tell everything you know a particular matter.
- Answer only within the scope of your authority and responsibility. If you don’t know something, say so—and then offer to get back to the reporter later with an answer.
- Look for ways to turn negatives into positives. For example, in a layoff situation, stress how many jobs were saved by taking this action.
- Remember to smile often, and to have energy during the interview. Your body language often will speak louder than your words, especially on TV.
- If you’re on camera, look at the person conducting the interview, not into the camera (unless you are specifically asked to do so).
- Avoid industry jargon, being critical or loosing your temper.
- Never say “no comment,” which equals guilt in most people’s minds. If you can’t discuss something, explain why. Examples: Confidentiality, Proprietary information, Pending litigation, Timing (gathering all the facts)
- When you’ve made your point, stop talking.
The last point may be the most important one of all, because more times than not people make their best points in the first sentence or two they utter in response to a question.
When people elaborate too much and get “off message,” they typically end up in the swamp and say something they later regret.
Don Beehler provides public relations consulting services to small- and medium-sized advertising agencies and businesses.