Answering difficult PR questions

April 5, 2013

It’s difficult to keep a level head when the spotlight is on you; media interviews and press conferences can be daunting especially when a live TV camera is present!

There will inevitably be challenging questions to answer, and remember journalists are always after a story and have a ‘sixth sense’ for sniffing out controversy or spotting any contradiction in your answers.

Anyone acting as a spokesperson for your company should complete proper media training, but here are some tips based on my experience to make sure you say the right thing when the pressure’s on:


  1. Know your facts and most importantly figures. There’s no excuse for not knowing your stuff not only could you look like a fool but the reputation of your company could be adversely affected.
  2. Keep calm and breathe deeply, smile and keep relaxed. If your body language is defensive it’ll look like you have something to hide.
  3. Never say ‘no comment’– not only does this comes across arrogant and un-cooperative but it allows the journalists to control the story. If you don’t know the answer, simply say that and promise to get hold of the relevant information or person for them as soon as possible.
  4. Don’t be pressured to answer questions you shouldn’t but explain why you can’t give them that information. Honesty is always the best policy
  5. Remember, nothing is ever completely ‘off the record’.
  6. Always know what you want to communicate ahead of the interview and ensure you get this across. Choosing 3 or so ‘key messages’ can help with this and give you a focus for your answers.
  7. Use key phrases to bridge back to your key messages.
  8. Be positive. Don’t repeat negative questions back to the interviewer, as in: “No, our company has not suffered a slump in sales.” Instead, focus on the positives: “in the last month, we’ve sold over….”

And here’s the get out of jail answer to the really difficult question… Oops sorry that’s in our Media Training Course and I couldn’t possible give that away on a public blog…

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