The Illogical Logic …
Of not answering questions from journalists

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I was sitting in a client's office a while ago, waiting for him to finish a short meeting with a staff member. While waiting, I was flipping through some recent back issues of Marketing magazine when I came across an article entitled: "Talking the right talk. Media training helps your brand be the focus in an interview." (February 14, 2005)

Reporter Eve Lazarus described how she had sat through a media training session arranged for a young jewelry designer who had won an award for designing a right-hand diamond engagement ring. The designer's employer believed the award would be a good way to generate free publicity. But before unleashing the young designer on unsuspecting reporters, media training was arranged.

In the article, Lazarus listened to a consultant provide the following advice during the media training session: "Get your message out, don't let a reporter interrupt you, try not to speak too quickly and try not to get off track with what you are there to talk about.

"They are going to ask you a question, you are going to answer with your key message, they are going to ask you another question, and you are going to have a second or third key message."

Maybe it's just me, but I just don't understand this logic.

The company has good news to share. They are cranking up the media relations machine to get reporters interested in their story. They're hoping the editors will respond by sending out a reporter, which will then result in "free" publicity for the firm.

When the reporter begins asking questions (which is, after all, what reporters do for a living), the spokesperson is going to ignore their questions and keep driving home key messages.

It sounds like an interesting way to develop relationships with reporters. You get us interested so we'll ask questions. When we ask them, you rudely ignore them and keep parroting key messages that would look better in an advertisement than a feature article. I wonder what will happen the next time the organization (or its agency) sends out a news release. If you were the editor, what would you do? I'd delete it in less time than it takes the average consultant to say "key message."

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Eric Bergman, BPA, ABC, APR, MC, FCPRS
Eric Bergman is Canada's most experienced and credentialed media training consultant.

He conducted his first media relations campaign (and coached his first spokespeople) during the summer of 1981 while promoting two student theatre arts productions, Pal Joey and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum.

He has bee self-employed since 1985. For the past 25 years, media training has been his core business.

His media training program, At Ease With the Media, has provided thousands of spokespeople from five continents with the tools needed to manage exchanges with journalists to win-win outcomes, while protecting themselves and their organization every step of the way.

Eric holds a bachelor's degree communication studies from Athabasca University and a two-year diploma in advertising and public relations from Grant MacEwan College.

He is an accredited business communicator (ABC), an accredited public relations practitioner (APR), and a master communicator (MC)—which is the highest distinction that can be bestowed upon a Canadian member of the International Association of Business Communicators. In 2014, he was named a member of the College of Fellows of the Canadian Public Relations Society (FCPRS).

If you're interested in learning about how his proven approach can help your spokespeople, please explore this website or contact Eric directly.
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