Everybody’s a spin doctor.
You want to establish a certain tone, project a specific image, and elicit a desired response.
From job interviews and professional networking to dating and 30-year class reunions. Even how you respond when a colleague or your friendly neighborhood barista asks, “How are you today?”
It’s the same dealing with the media.
It’s about anticipating what the other person actually knows, thinks they know, and wants to know. What you tell them is your “spin.”
Or, as character Francis Underwood put it on the show House of Cards, “She knows the right questions to ask. I want to make sure she doesn’t get the right answers.”
How do you do this?
Part of it’s guesswork. The more you do it, the better you are at recognizing the signals.
Does the question contain or lack specifics? Is the person’s voice strong or meek? Is their stare intent or evasive? What is their agenda, and how does that fit the question?
The better you anticipate, the more effectively you can avoid pitfalls and paint yourself in a favorable light.
This also works in reverse. When lawyers prepare for depositions, they drill deep for ammunition that will let them poke and prod the other side into making mistakes.
A few tips:
- Answer the question you want, not the one you’re asked. (Do it smoothly and convincingly enough, and the other person will be satisfied. A job interviewer or date because they hear something they want. A reporter because he’s getting a good quote.)
- When you answer specific questions, you needn’t spill all the beans. (Keep your cards close, and focus on the facts that support your goal.)
- Don’t feel compelled to talk. (An old trick of reporters, if they’re unsatisfied with an answer, is to stare silently at you.* This makes people nervous, so they ramble and say things they regret. After you’ve made your point, beat them at their own game by staying silent. The reporter will move on.)
* Full disclosure: Eden used this ploy to elicit an apology from an ex.
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Gillott Communications is a Strategic PR firm. We’re Fixers. Crisis & Reputation Management. Litigation. Media Relations. Crisis Prep. More than half a century of expertise working with clients to resolve issues both in and outside the media’s glare — in their professional and personal lives.
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