If I said I could make you ask me a specific question, you probably wouldn’t believe me – or you’d think I’d taken a lesson from Paul McKenna.
But imagine you’re listening to a radio interview. The interviewee says, “We did some research and came up with an astonishing finding.”
It would take a very brave (and probably foolish) journalist not to then ask, “What exactly did you find?”, not least because they know the audience’s interest has been piqued by the interviewee’s statement.
I heard an interviewee do just this on Radio 4 yesterday when they said, “…and it has many incredibly interesting applications.” There was no way the journalist was going to ignore the remark and say, “Never mind that, tell me about this other aspect about your work…”
What this cueing-the-next-question technique shows is that far from being wholly at the mercy of the journalist and their line of questioning, there are ways an interviewee can take some control.
But if you fancy trying this technique, you need to think about these “cueing phrases” well before you begin the interview – it’s rather like looking several moves ahead in a game of chess.
Actually, it’s a more sophisticated version of that well-known media training strategy, the bridging technique – sometimes called the “ABC method”.
This is where you Acknowledge the question (rather than ignore it, which is what many of our delegates still maintain politicians do), and then Bridge seamlessly to Communicate what you want to talk about, rather than simply wait for another – possibly tricky – question from the journalist.
With the more subtle “cueing method” the interviewee does the Acknowledging and Bridging part and then lets the journalist or presenter invite them to do the Communicating part by asking, “What did you discover?/What was that key finding in your research?…”
So let’s look at those irresistible phrases that will ensure a very high chance of securing the desired follow-up question – here are a handful that can easily be adapted:
“We surveyed our customers and there was one result that really surprised us.”
“You would think this was the best way for businesses to increase their sales, but in fact we discovered it was something completely different.”
“The number one cause of diabetes/tooth decay/skin allergies/lethargy/stress in young people is not what you might think.”
“The key finding in this study has completely turned the long-held preconception on its head.”
“We realised this actually an urban myth; the reality is far more shocking.”
Some might argue the journalist won’t be led down this route that you’ve set up because they have their own questions, their own agenda. But good journalists never stick to a list of a prepared questions, and unless you’re a politician or big boss, who needs to needs to be held to account, the journalist will probably be only too happy to go with your flow, simply because there’s a very strong chance their audience will be amused, informed or entertained. Everyone wins.
So, I hope this post has been useful and packed with media interview tips; but, before you go, I’ll tell you something really amazing: the subject of my next post will shock and intrigue you in equal measure and reveal something you could never have imagined…