Handling questions when you don’t know the answer

By Jeff Heisner

Seeing the Presidential candidates in action is sometimes like watching the Vince Vaughn/Ben Stiller comedy DodgeBall. The candidates find different and creative ways to dodge, avoid and completely not answer direct questions during their interviews. What they are trying to do is called bridging. Bridging is how an interviewee controls the interview by switching the conversation away from a negative situation. Turn on CNN or Fox News any time of day and you’ll hear Trump, Hilary, Bernie and their supporters dodging those questions they don’t want to answer. Some do it very well, while others do more harm than good.


Deflecting questions you don’t want to answer is an art and needs to be done tactfully. Many times you will have to use these techniques when answering questions that you don’t have the information, aren’t sure about the right response, or even when you’re stumped.

Saying “no comment” or “I don’t know” won’t cut it. These answers can make you look incompetent or like you have something to hide.

12qazzHere are some situations and ways to handle them when you don’t have the answer to a reporters questions.

  • As we said, deflecting questions you don’t want to answer needs to be done tactfully. I always recommend acknowledging the reporters question. Don’t avoid it completely. This will only make you look untrustworthy. First acknowledge the question and then steer it back to one of you main messages. For example, “While that’s an important point, I think the main point is…”
  • You may be dealing with important information which you don’t have readily available or someone else in your company may be the expert on this subject. It is absolutely OK to tell a reporter that you don’t have that information right now, but will be happy to get it to them before their deadline. Then go back to the office, do the research and make sure you get the reporter the information you promised.
  • Many times reporters will ask hypothetical and leading questions that can shine a bad light on you or your company. Speculating on any kind of negative situation is never recommend. It’s much better to steer the interview away from the negative and towards your talking points and then offer a positive example that supports you goals.
  • Multiple questions can come flying at you all at once. Don’t feel like you have the answer to all of them. If this happens, respond to the question which you are most comfortable answering. Make sure it is a firm and confident answer. It is OK to ignore the others, but be prepared for the follow up questions.

Thoughtfully answering questions, when you don’t have the answers can be difficult. It takes practice and if you’re not prepared a good reporter will hound you for the information until they get their answer. Practice some of the situations as you prepare for your interviews. See if you can skillfully handle the questions better than this year’s candidates.

Over Confidence Can Kill You

By Jodie Heisner

Okay so I am dipping back into my news days with the sensational headline, while it cannot kill you literally, it can kill your career.

My media background and current gig as a media coach means I also consult with a lot of PR Professionals. I hear a common complaint, “my clients won’t take my constructive criticism.”

BottomLine: If you are doing business/expert media interviews, you are probably not a media professional. Chances are, it is not the main function of your job. It is new to you and you do it on an irregular basis. That being the case, why would you not accept constructive criticism from a person you are paying to help with your image?

One of the common responses… “My friends (employees/family) said I did great.” Yes, yes, of course they did. What else are they going to say? They love you/respect you and want you to feel good.

Here are the top reasons you need to listen to your PR Professional’s Advice:

  • Your PR person has your image and their image in mind. It is one in the same, you look bad, they look bad. When they review your interviews they want only the best for you, because it also reflects well on them.
  • You are paying them. They risk offending you and losing you as a client when they share that criticism. That is how important it is to them.
  • They are a professional in the industry. They understand what reporters/producers/editors are looking for and want you to be able to deliver it.

When working with clients I often find the person that lacks a little confidence is the best student and improves the most. That being said, push the ego aside. So you didn’t do well during your first interview or two, your PR Pro recommends media training. So what! Suck it up and accept it. Thank them for their honesty, it wasn’t easy for them to share that with you.

When you open yourself up to the possibility that you need to improve and could use some help, you grow closer to creating that confident image you want and knocking interviews out of the park.

Avoiding an epic meltdown in your presentation

Transformer director, Michael Bay’s specialty is blowing things up on a epic scale for the big screen.

Recently at the Consumer Electronic Show in Las Vegas Bay was the one imploding after his performance.

You’ve probably seen this video of his meltdown where he got so flustered he walked off the stage.


Bay’s stage fright has become the butt of numerous jokes for the late night talk shows.

To avoid a Bay-like disaster, here are three tips to ensure you get back on track in case things start to go wrong on a live presentation…

  • Don’t “JUST WING IT” as Bay said he would do.  Be prepared, so that when the worst happens you can handle it.  Preparation is the key.  If you are giving a presentation you must know those messages and talking points you prepared.
  • Be composed and confident.  Anything live can be overwhelming, but knowing your messages and being prepared should help instill confidence you need when talking in front of a group.  Make sure you breathe and do your best to relax, so the butterflies don’t get the best of you.
  • It’s never a good idea to walk off stage.  If you get flustered take a moment to regroup your thoughts and then continue with your message.

Should you avoid the mainstream media and use YouTube?

It’s becoming more than a trend.  People are avoiding or ditching the mainstream media and using YouTube to get their message out to the public.

Wondering if  YouTube is a viable platform?

Actually, it is.

Courtesy: paidcontent.org

Courtesy: paidcontent.org

Paula Deen’s apology and the Cleveland kidnap victims reaction to being freed went straight to the web and received millions of YouTube views.  The videos were also picked up and shown by every just about media outlet in the country.

I was recently interviewed for a story on The List on why celebrities are skipping the session on the couch with Oprah or Dr. Phil for a YouTube video and there are plenty of good reasons.

  • If you have the cyber audience and a fan following this is a great option.
  • You can get your message out fast without worrying about holding a press conference or waiting on the press.
  • YouTube is also free and easy to use.
  • The best reason to blow off the press and use YouTube is the ability to control your message.

When using YouTube, you’re not going to get misquoted or have soundbites taken out of context.  If you didn’t like what you tried the first time, there can always take 2, 3, 4 or more.

For celebrities, avoiding the mainstream press can be a great idea, and we will see much more of this.

A number of businesses and people could take advantage of this, but be sure you’re not wasting you time.

You can have a great message, but it’s not effective if only a handful of people see you on YouTube.