Below is the sixth in a series of “Working with the Media” articles. With your help, we hope to be able to leverage our strength in numbers to help promote architects, architecture and AIA-NJ. The other installments of the Working with the Media series can be found here.
Previously in Working with the Media, we focused on the basic elements of delivering your message in an interview. In a nutshell, this strategy recalled the principles of the “inverted pyramid,” by which the interviewee emphasizes the most salient points first, followed by supporting details and minutiae. This strategy helps to ensure that your most important insights are recognized as such by the reporter.
That said, a reporter will often begin working on a story with a specific “angle” in mind. Perhaps they’re looking for commentary on a new piece of legislation from an architectural perspective, or maybe they’re writing about a controversial development project. These interviews carry several professional sensitivities, making it important as ever to prepare a clearly mapped message. While it’s always ideal to cooperate with reporters as much as possible, there will be times when a reporter is seeking response to a question you’re unable to answer for legal or other reasons – or because you don’t have expertise on that specific topic.
If, in the course of an interview, you are asked such a question, you may want to “bridge” your answer – that is, gently transition the topic of conversation in your response. This is naturally preferable to a “no comment” response, since you may be able to offer some valuable information for the reporter without hitting on the topic’s specific sensitivities.
A few phrases that can help you bridge your conversation:
- “While I’m not at liberty to discuss specifics on that right now, I can tell you that…”
- “I think what’s most relevant is…”
- “I can’t speak for any of the involved parties, but it is generally true that…”
The goal in bridging your message is not to be evasive and avoidant, but to guide the conversation to a space where you can provide valuable commentary without overstepping any professional boundaries. In some cases, the journalist’s “probing” questions may actually have the simple goal of moving the conversation forward, and your relevant comments, which don’t necessarily answer the question directly, will give them the additional color they were seeking.
Ultimately, while bridging within an interview may feel somewhat unnatural at first, it’s preferable to providing a reporter with an on-the-record comment that could have negative legal (or other) ramifications.
If you would like to read the previous articles in this series, please see the following links:
Beckerman PR Real Estate Team