single day your spokespeople answer questions from reporters, public
officials, and other
Unfortunately, few give any
managing their responses.
On the positive side,
this presents you with an opportunity to raise your profile by
counseling them on effective Q&A strategies.
Benefit by Managing Your Responses
It is important to recognize that listeners—be
they a single reporter or an auditorium filled with hundreds of people—
profit when you manage your responses. Why is that? Let’s examine what
happens when you fail to stay on point.
Most of us have been
subjected to exchanges when a renegade questioner forced an expert into a
meaningless dialogue. Of course, you have also likely arranged interviews
in which your spokesperson went off topic, resulting in a less than
flattering story in the press.
Unfortunately, few give any forethought
to managing their responses. On the positive side, this presents you with
an opportunity to raise your profile by counseling them on effective Q&A
The bottom line is dealing skillfully with questions
benefits you and your organization. It demonstrates that you have what it
takes to handle the heat in the hottest kitchen. It raises your
professional profile, polishes your reputation, and helps your
organization attain the goals you are working to achieve. Note that this
applies not only to your communications goals, it also demonstrates how
effective communications and Q&A response help achieve your overall
Successful response management also helps you avoid
that deer in the headlights look that is the hallmark of unskilled
spokespeople hit with tough questions.
How can you and your executives
best put into place an effective response management methodology? First
and foremost comes preparation and practice. Of course, this is the case
with any endeavor involving public speaking, media interviews, testimony
on Capitol Hill or before a regulatory agency, and one-on-one dealings
Write down a list of questions that might arise,
then sort them into what I call “issue baskets.” Allow me to explain this
term. No matter how convoluted your issues, there are probably no more
than four or five central themes you deal with in any Q&A situation (if
you find yourself unable to narrow it down to that number, consult with a
communications expert skilled in message development to help you refine
your approach). Decide which portion of your message best addresses each
Next, sort the questions into three
types as follows:
Questions you expect to
hear in nearly every encounter. You should have ready responses for
Positive questions that
you want to hear. Suggest these questions to reporters, lawmakers, or
an audience member in advance, whenever possible.
Questions you never want
to hear. This is where your spokespeople must learn to utilize
techniques like bridging and deflection.
Success through Q&A
Let’s face it. You rarely get the chance to
deliver your message in unfiltered fashion. So rid yourself of the tired,
ineffective way of Q&A response. Turn the conversation more in your
direction. Take control. Managing your responses is vital to the good
health of your career and your organization.
Barks is President of Barks Communications, author of
Truth About Public Speaking: The Three Keys to Great Presentations,
and a member of the National Press Club’s Board of Governors.
learn more, visit www.barkscomm.com
Contact Ed at (540) 955-0600 or
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