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20 years

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Answer the Damn Question, Please


Caveat:  This is an example of a politician not-answering a question and then walking off the set.  I'm not taking sides here, but using this as a teaching moment for others  who either coach spokespersons or want to be interviewed.

The blogs and internet are fired up because former Delaware Senatorial candidate Christine O'Donnell walked off the set of a Piers Morgan CNN interview.

O'Donnell candidly stated that she was on the show to promote her new book.  "Troublemaker. Let’s do what it takes to make America great again."

Sparks flew when Morgan asked O'Donnell about her views on gay marriage and O'Donnell said she came on the show to talk about other parts of the book. They went back and forth until O'Donnell finally took off her mic and walked off.  Interviewer Morgan missed the obvious retort: If you don’t want to answer questions about what is in the book, then don't go on the show.  That's what advertising and web sites and twitter feeds are for.  The unwritten rule about media interviews for book and movie promotion is that the entire work is fair game for the interviewer - not just the chapters you want to discuss.

So let me make a couple of points from the CommCore playbook for candidates, officials, authors and business people who seek to work with the news media.

  • Absent ground rules of what not to cover (a rarity), the entire book is fair game.  (Not prior books, but the one you are promoting, aka using the interview to get people to buy your book.)
  • Anticipate all the questions including the ones you hope won't be asked. Practice responding just in case they are. Be prepared.
  • Make it easy: think of the Media Training Bridging technique as A-B-C.  A stands for Answer or Address the issue.  A does not stand for Avoid.  Once you Answer or acknowledge, then you can Bridge to C, the point you want to Communicate.
  • All Ms. O'Donnell had to do was answer one of the questions somewhat like this:  "Piers, It's a fair question since it's in the book. So here's my response to the issue on gay marriage... However, what I would prefer to focus on are the other chapters..." Chances are Morgan would have gone across the bridge. 


Was Morgan being rude?   Should O'Donnell have walked off the set?

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