How to Bridge Your Way to Media Success
October 13, 2015
When people complain about reporters getting it wrong, they often say…
“I was so prepared…I was so ready…and they never asked me that.”
Don’t wait for the “right” question. In a media interview, there’s no such thing. You can’t control what reporters are going to ask. All you can control is the way you answer.
Set your own agenda.
Your key messages are the most important tools in your interview toolkit. You should use them to help you set the agenda. Sometimes, you might want to return to your messages, but it’s not straightforward and you’re not sure how to do it. You don’t want your answer to sound awkward or like a non sequitur. The easiest technique to help you is something called “bridging”.
Bridges will help you stay “on message”.
Bridges are transitional phrases that allow you to re-direct and re-focus the interview. They can be anything that’s appropriate and suits your normal speech pattern. For example…
- more importantly
- let me add
- the real issue/the real concern is
- let me put this into perspective
When you really don’t want to answer the question.
Some media trainers say…”Don’t worry about the questions. Who cares what they’re asking? What’s important here is you and your messages”. This extreme approach goes far beyond “staying on message”. It’s often called “sticking to the message track” and it’s not a method I would recommend.
The “message track” is a slippery slope.
Robotic, scripted, verbatim repetitions are a turn off for the public and the media. Reporters are not forgiving of this and will call you on it. For example…”In our ten minute interview, Mr. So and So used this exact same phrase 22 times.” You don’t want this. It doesn’t reflect well on you.
It’s as easy as ABC.
I’m not saying that you always have to answer all the questions….not at all. I’m saying there are options. Sometimes, there are tough questions… negative, controversial questions that you really don’t want to handle straight on. In those cases, try this three part approach.
- Acknowledge the question. A phrase like “certainly, this is a challenge” or “we know people are concerned” can work well enough. You want to say something simple and benign that won’t compromise you. Stay away from anything negative.
- Bridge to re-direct the interview to the territory where you feel more comfortable.
- Communicate your message.
Bridges are handy tools.
Bridges allow you to turn negatives into positives. But don’t forget the acknowledgement. This is the critical first step. An acknowledgement shows respect for the interviewer and the question. And, if you move on to something substantial and interesting, the acknowledgement increases your chances of them not going back to the original question.