Tips in Dealing with the Media- Part 4: Taking Control

Intro (Part 1) | Part 2 | Part3 | Part4 | Part5 (Last)

*Note: This series is almost entirely based on a series of short videos (part of Wharton’s Communication class) by Amy Sharp, a media professional.*

Even though it’s the reporter’s interview, it is really YOU, the subject, who is the focus of attention. So, how do you control the interview such that you are able to talk about the messages that you want to give, and not to let the reporter veer off subject. Remember you don’t want to have the playing field become unleveled again!

Making bridges to out-of-place questions:

If the reporter does ask you about something that has absolutely nothing to do with subject (like if you are talking about the pilgrimage to Makkah, and he pops up about what you think about the Iranian involvement in Iraq!), then you cannot simply ignore the question. You have to dignify the question, and then create a bridge back to the topic you were prepared for.

So, if someone does ask you about the Iranian involvement, you can reply with, “that is an interesting question that I haven’t much looked into, but it let me tell you how wonderful it was to have people from all those regions in one location at Hajj—Iraqis, Iranians, Europeans, etc.” Another example, what if someone asks you if you were going to run for City Council in 2010, although the topic at hand was your administration’s achievement, then you can say: “2010 is far away but lets talk about what we are doing in 2008”. Here are some other bridges that you can use:

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  • But its important to note that
  • But what you don’t want to forget is
  • But the question I’m most frequently asked is
  • But what we are happy to report is

You don’t always need script for the type of bridge to use, but instead create any bridge back to your message points. The important thing is to get control.

Planting effective verbal flags:

Another technique to drive in a message point is to plant a verbal flag: “Listen up… what I am about to say its important”. These flags are very helpful, especially right before you are about to mention your most important point. Some other flags include:

  • The bottomline is
  • The most important thing is
  • The real thing to remember is
  • The one thing I always tell my client is

What if the interview is being taped?

What if reporter will edits the whole thing? Often time, they will. So, you need to learn to condense your message points into short answers, what we often hear called “sound bytes”. Sound-bytes allow you to get more of your message out, and it also allows reporter to ask your more questions.

Don’t repeat reporter’s negative language:

If a reporter asks you what you are going to do about the massive casualties caused by a “Islamic-terrorist”, don’t repeat the words “massive casualties”, otherwise you are repeating language that you don’t necessarily want people to connect with you or to your interview. But, you do need to correct language that is not factual right away. So, if the report about Muslims being involved in unconfirmed, then you need to check the reporter that the report is unconfirmed. Or if the reporter suggests information that is factually incorrect about your mosque, or your dawah organization, you need to correct it at the spot. You may never get that opportunity.

Next Topics:

  • Part 5- Appearing Confident

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6 responses to “Tips in Dealing with the Media- Part 4: Taking Control”

  1. Manas Shaikh says:

    Bridges are useful, but I guess one has to be a bit careful that bridges don’t appear to be “evasive action”.

    One more thing that can do utmost damage is getting angry. Audubillah.

  2. amad says:

    Good point Manas. Sometimes there is a fine line between being evasive and bridging. But it is far better to be evasive than to say something dumb or something not based on facts.

  3. Manas Shaikh says:

    I agree. :)

    Saying something stupid or incorrect is worse than evading it. It is best to bridge inconspicuously.

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