The communication expert Maribeth Metzler presents an interesting battery of different types of questions that a journalist can throw in his / her quest to obtain the best possible answers. The journalist is (or should be) a highly skilled person to elicit relevant, impactful, innovative information, that perhaps the representative of a company does not want to expose. To do this, Metzler has cataloged various issues beyond the classics. Here is a summary of the most important questions (and dangerous too):
Confirmation question: The journalist knows the information, thinks knowing it or that he is close to know it, and only seeks the interviewee’s answer to verify it. For example: “He is convinced that the company could have avoided the crisis with better coordination with health authorities, right?
Friendly or goodbye question: It is forbidden to believe in the ‘off the record’ during a crisis. Remember that a journalist is not an enemy, but not a friend either. Each one plays their role, so keep your distance. For example: “Well, between you and me now, economic management during the last period was …” This alleged ‘off the record’ can mean the utter failure for the company … and success for the journalist. Similarly, when the journalist leaves and says goodbye, do not say anything you would not want. Perhaps the recorder is still on …
Speculative question: It is often difficult to answer because it deals with situations or scenarios that may not have been considered or trained with the Q&A. They start with the “If …”, looking for a view on what might have happened in other circumstances. If the question escapes initial purposes, the elegant answer is “We cannot be certain of …” For example: “If the product had been marketed in other countries, the damage would have a devastating effect globally?”
Naive question: The journalist does not have the slightest idea about what the company does or why it is in crisis. In other words, he has not prepared well the subject. So he throws the typical “What does your company do” or “Can you explain how the crisis occurred?” It’s a great time to ‘sell’ whatever you want. Your story will be his / her story.
Accusatory question: The journalist looks for that statement in which lunges at another person or organization. Keep your innocence if true, and if not, do not burden against other (mainly in the first stage of the crisis and / or if there are victims). Public opinion never react well to what it is called ‘fan technique’ because, above all, you must show responsibility for what happened, whether or not it is your fault.
Trap question: It contains some intentional misinformation cited by the journalist that in case the interviewee does not notice it may appear in the news with a negative effect for the company. For example: “Weeks before the fire you ensured that security spending was reduced by 15%, right?” The fact may be true, but not the percentage … We must be aware at all times.
Detail question: The journalist claims to know the whole story and just needs some details, a statement. It does not need to be true. Stand firm in your messages, those who you want to praise, and do not fall into the ‘trap’ of wanting to go fast giving him / her what they ask.
By Alejandro Teodoro