This post is all about keeping it simple, so here goes: NEVER, EVER repeat the reporter’s negative. If you take one thing away from media training, it should be this hard and fast rule.
In each “wrong” answer below, note the italicized text – inevitably, this will generate the soundbite you’re trying to avoid.
REPORTER: “So, your competitors claim your quarterly earnings show a company in distress, correct?”
WRONG ANSWER: “Our earnings may have been off, but we’re going to turn things around next quarter.”
RIGHT ANSWER: “Our company is well positioned to have positive growth in the coming fiscal quarter.”
REPORTER: “Your COO has left to start her own rival business, do you have a loyalty problem in the ranks?”
WRONG ANSWER: “We don’t think her departure means that people don’t like to work at our company.”
RIGHT ANSWER: “This is a highly competitive industry, and our talent is united and focused on going forward and leveraging all new business opportunities.”
REPORTER: “Your government’s been criticized for not negotiating fairly on the bilateral trade deal – why are your ministers so stubborn?”
WRONG ANSWER: “Our negotiators are stubborn because we have a firm set of fair principles we want honored in the trade deal.”
RIGHT ANSWER: “We believe our negotiators are helping move the deal along the right path, and that all parties will ultimately be satisfied with the outcome.”
Remember, the purpose of any interview is, to some degree, to make the reporter’s job easier by providing the content to make the story interesting. This cuts both ways, so always state your points in a positive way.