Think Positive: Media Training Strategies
May 15, 2015
There’s an old song called Accentuate the Positive. It was a big hit in 1944 and since then has been sung by everyone from Bing Crosby, Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke and Dr. John to Paul McCartney and a punk band called the Vindictives. The refrain goes like this…
“Accentuate the positive… Eliminate the negative…Latch on to the affirmative… Don’t mess with Mr. InBetween…”
I think this is great advice whether you’re talking about life or media interviews.
Beware of critical questions.
If you’re answering a critical question, in most cases, you shouldn’t use the reporter’s words. They could be incriminating. And, reporters can be tricky. They can plant incriminating words at the end of a question where your natural inclination would be to repeat them. You can imagine what those words might be…“futile”, “irrelevant” “exaggerated”, “negligent”, “unrealistic”… “Oh no, it’s not unrealistic”… You see how easy it would be to repeat the negative.
Don’t repeat the negative.
This is one of the rules everyone learns in media training workshops. I tell my clients to see the reporter’s question as a trap because that’s exactly what it is. Don’t let them take you further than you want to go. Don’t let them bait you or goad you into saying what you shouldn’t.
Negatives can be used against you.
If the TV audience didn’t hear the negative the first time in a studio interview, they’ll certainly hear it the second time when you repeat it. And, in an edited interview or a print interview for newspapers or the web, they can’t use it unless you say it. And, if you say it, it can be used against you. It can become the negative sound byte or the negative headline.
Replace negative words.
Here’s a strategy you can try. If the interviewer uses a negative word, replace it with one that better suits your positive message. For example, if they call it a “problem”, you can call it a challenge or a difficult situation. If they call it a “mistake”, you can call it a valuable lesson.
Re-phrase the question.
Another strategy is to re-phrase the question entirely. You could start by saying… “I wouldn’t use those words, but if you’re asking (this)…..” That’s where you re-phrase the question before you answer it.
There are various strategies you can use to avoid negatives. The key is to stay on message and stay positive. Remember the lyrics of the song? Here’s a flashback with The Andrews Sisters and Bing Crosby.