As easy as ABC
If you’ve given some thought to your crisis communications plan, you’ve no doubt nominated some media spokespeople – you may even be one. So one day you might find yourself on the receiving end of a journalist’s questions. And if you’re not overly experienced in this situation, the temptation might be to just answer them.
But dealing effectively with the media isn’t actually about answering their questions – it’s about saying what you want to say. And the two things are often very different, as the journalist and you are likely to have very different agendas.
So how exactly do you go about not answering a journalist’s questions?
Firstly, and this may sound obvious, you need to know what you do want to say. So you need to prepare. You probably won’t get much thinking time during the interview, therefore you need to have done your thinking beforehand.
Secondly, when faced with a journalist’s questions, you can use the ‘ABC rule’.
A is for Acknowledge : This is your initial response to the question that’s been asked. Rather than just blatantly ignoring it, you might say something like “That’s a very interesting question…”
B is for Bridge : This is where you build a link to what you want to say, rather than just answering the question. You might say something like “Before I answer that I’d just like to say…” or “The most important thing is…”
C is for Content : Now that you’ve built the bridge to what you want to say, here’s where you get to communicate the content of your message.
It sounds easy, and with a bit of practice it can be. We’ve all seen people who are really good at this (although we hate them for it!) and who do it all the time. Yes, that’s right, politicians. Think about it – when did you last hear a politician actually answer a question?
Politicians aside, following the ABC rule will help to put you, rather than the interviewer, in control and enable you to get your message across, no matter what questions they ask you.