This is a valid question and one that is often a top concern for people when doing media interviews. There are a number of ways to handle the situation – below is an outline of what to do and what not to do if you are unsure how to answer a reporter’s question. There are also detailed instructions on bridging and pivoting, and how to successfully implement those techniques into an interview.
What to do/what not to do if you are unsure how to answer a question
- When you don’t know the answer to a question, you can do one of two things: either tell the reporter that you don’t have that information readily available, and let them know you’ll plan on circling back at a later date (this gives you time to find the information, if applicable) - or if you’re truly unsure, say that is not your area of expertise and don’t feel comfortable answering. You don’t want to risk answering the question incorrectly as it could lead to credibility issues with the reporter in the future.
- When you don’t understand a reporter’s question, rather than guessing what you *think* they mean, simply ask for clarification. Again, maintaining credibility is essential. You don’t want to risk answering the question incorrectly.
- If a reporter’s question calls for speculation, it's best to let them know you’re not interested in speculating. If you turn out to be wrong, the answer could be used against you down the road.
- Never say: “No comment” to a reporter. This could dramatically hurt the relationship you have or are trying to build with them, and it doesn’t make SCORE look like a credible source. Traditionally, there are other pivoting and bridging tactics to be used in an instance where you truly do not have a comment.
What’s bridging/pivoting and how do you do it?
“Bridging” or pivoting is an incredibly important tactic utilized in all media messaging. By “bridging” an interviewee can take a question with neutral or negative connotation and turn it into a positive response. Here are a breakdown of the steps:
- Acknowledge: If a reporter asks a question with neutral or negative connotation, first acknowledge that you’ve heard them and know in your mind that you do not necessarily need to answer the question in a way that does not work for you.
- Bridge: A bridge can be made from phrases such as: “Even more important..”, “And that’s why…”, or “In spite of…”. Example: “Despite inflation wreaking havoc on small business owners, SCORE is here to support entrepreneurs through any challenges they face. We are here to ensure they have the resources to succeed during unprecedented times.”
- Message: Deliver that positive message and keep it concise. Example: “In spite of the labor shortage, small business owners are resilient fighters and will do anything to succeed.”
As always, our public relations team (firstname.lastname@example.org) is here to provide additional guidance as needed. Thank you for sharing your chapter’s success and accomplishments!