Media Interviewing: Beware of the Invisible Question

Media training

If you’ve agreed to do a media interview and it will be recorded, and then edited before “airing,” beware of the invisible question. What’s that, you ask?

It’s when the interviewer purposefully tells a story or asks what may appear to be a long or disjointed question that may give you pause. It could be one that seemingly comes out of nowhere, or, it could just be the way the interviewer stated things.

One telltale sign you were just asked an “invisible question” is when you think to yourself in mid-interview, “I can’t believe they just said that!”

In any event, you want to straighten the reporter out, clear the air, or educate the reporter directly, and perhaps bluntly.

That’s exactly what the reporter wants.  What you can’t tell at the time is whether the reporter will or will not include his or her question in the final production along with your response.

I can put some of those fears to ease right now.

No.  The reporter most likely will not include the story they told you or the question that was asked in the final production. They will just include your response, along with any framing they scripted after the fact to make your response come across the way they want.

If they say something that makes you angry or frustrated, or which makes you feel the need to treat them like a dunce and speak condescendingly to them, they will most certainly not include their part of the exchange. Instead, they could very easily make the issue your tone or your attitude in responding to the question.

So, when you agree to do a media interview, know that there will likely be some questions that are never intended for air, but your responses to those questions are. They are the invisible questions. Prepare for them so that as you respond, you can avoid looking defensive, condescending, angry or frustrated.

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Tim is the author of the book called “The Essential Crisis Communications Plan: A Crisis Management Process that Fits Your Culture.” He is founder of O’Brien Communications and has provided crisis communications and issues management support to clients from Fortune 100 firms and national nonprofits, to emerging start-ups. Tim has handled hundreds of crises, large and small over decades, working with some of the most iconic brands in the world along the way.


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