Advanced Media Training Tip: Answer With A Statement

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Grant Ainsley. a media trainer and public speaker from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and the author of The Honest Spin Doctor.

I admire people who are really good in front of the media. I know how difficult it can be to stay on message and speak with confidence and clarity when reporters pepper spokespeople with questions. Those who are really good at it normally have lots of experience, have handled difficult situations in the past and rarely get flustered.

They all use one simple trick that makes them stand out from the rest. I want to share this with you and hopefully you can use it the next time you’re interviewed.

It’s really as simple as answering with a statement. Regardless of the question, provide a statement for your answer.

In only rare cases do you have to start your answer with a “yes’ or a “no”, so use the opportunity to make a statement. The question from the reporter can actually become just a setup for what you want to say.

The following examples illustrate what I mean:

Question – “Your Council decided to raise property taxes by eight percent. Isn’t that too much for taxpayers to afford?”

Typical Answer – “Well, no we don’t think so…ah…we’ve talked to taxpayers…..

Statement Answer – “We’ve talked to taxpayers in many different ways and they told us they want service levels kept high….”

Question – “Would you guarantee that after such a large tax increase this year there will be a smaller one next year?”

Typical Answer – “Ah, so, no we can’t do that…this does make it easier…..

Statement Answer – “An increase like this lessens the chances of a large increase next year, but we need to listen to what taxpayers are telling us….”

See the difference? Using statements to answer questions puts you in control of the interview. Of course it’s not possible without developing some really good key messages that you can use in response to the reporter’s questions and practicing before you do the actual interview.

Grant Ainsley, the author of this piece, recommends answering with a statement.

Grant Ainsley, the author of this piece, recommends answering questions with a statement.

The media also appreciate the statement because it’s easier to insert into the news story. It gives the electronic media a clean edit point to lift your comment. It’s also easier for the reporter or news anchor to set up your comment because there’s no need for them to paraphrase the question you were asked that led to your comment.

One point of clarification though—you always need to answer the question, so ensure your statement does answer what the reporter is asking you. There’s no sense making a statement if it doesn’t answer the question. It only creates mistrust between you and the reporter.

The really interesting thing to note is that this doesn’t only apply to media interviews. You can use the technique in business conversations. The key point is, you have to know what you’re going to say before you say it.

Grant Ainsley is a media trainer and public speaker from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and the author of the book The Honest Spin Doctor. His website is