by Dan Ward
Do you think President Obama is a Christian?
You’d be justified in asking why that question is being posed in a blog about strategic communication. But that misses the point.
Of course that question has nothing to do with the subject of our blog. It also has little or nothing to do with Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s policies or record, but that didn’t stop Washington Post reporters Dan Balz and Robert Costa from asking it of him.
I argue that communications professionals better get ready.
Journalists know that successful politicians are well-trained to stay on message regarding their policies. That’s why they’ve taken to asking nonsense questions. Get someone off-script, and you have a good chance of creating controversy that drives click counts. That strategy of asking unimportant, irrelevant questions will soon find its way to interviews with business and civic leaders.
Communicators need to adapt. For instance, we no longer train spokespersons on how to answer specific questions, because the potential list of questions is now limitless. Instead, our Message Matrix® training program focuses on responses that are tied to issues rather than questions. No matter how nonsensical a question may be, you can always tie it back to a key issue and speak to that issue … responding to a question, rather than answering it.
Reporters may no longer want to ask questions of importance, so it’s our job to provide answers that matter.