When Media Attack

by Dan Ward

Are you, your bosses or your clients prepared for the same kind of “attack questioning” faced by Republican candidates in the latest debate? You should be.

You may not be running for President, but if you’re granting an interview you’re running for something. You’re running to sell a product, to protect your reputation, to change minds, to influence behavior. But most reporters aren’t trying to help you. Like the CNBC “moderators,” they may actually try to hurt you, because controversy brings ratings.

So how do you respond? You can’t counterattack as Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio did effectively, because you’re NOT running for president and few will care that you fought the good fight.

Respond by being prepared. As we tell clients who participate in our Message Matrix® training program, preparation means ditching the Q&A in favor of the I&R.

At a time in which many reporters no longer care about Who, What, Where, When, Why and How, the Q&A is dead. How can you possibly develop Answers when you have no ability to predict the Questions?

Think I&R instead. Identify the Issues you’re prepared to discuss, and develop Responses based on those issues.

In an interview, you have no responsibility to a reporter, especially one who is attacking you, to dutifully answer questions. Instead, you have a responsibility to your companies, your customers and your communities to respond with a message that protects and enhances your brand.

Don’t engage in a debate with a reporter or attempt to answer, or even acknowledge, a negatively worded attack question. Connect every question to one of a small set of issues about your organization, and provide a response that speaks to that issue.

“Is your business plan torn from the pages of a comic book?”

  • Issue – Mission/Vision;
  • Response – “Our customers are loyal to our products because they understand and connect with our vision. We focus on three things …”

“Many shareholders say you’re rarely in the office. Shouldn’t you just resign?”

  • Issue – Performance;
  • Response – “Our shareholders demand performance, and by any measure we’re achieving great results. In the last quarter alone …”

Performance in an interview is all about preparation. If you’re attacked, will you be prepared?

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