Dealing with Difficult Questions

  • Anticipate any difficult questions the media may ask and prepare your answer. It is easier to answer the tough questions if you have given them some thought beforehand.
  • Never speak for someone else. If the reporter asks you, “How do you think the school’s neighbors will feel about all of the construction from the new sidewalk project?” simply politely say, “You will need to speak with the neighbors about that.”
  • Generally it is not a good idea to answer questions about hypothetical situations. The media could integrate this response in the future surrounding a situation that is similar, but slightly different.
  • Learn to bridge the question back to one of your main points. Answer the question, and follow up with one of your key message points using a transition, such as “and it is also important to point out…”
  • Never comment on topics you are unfamiliar with or do not have all of the information surrounding.
  • Correct the journalist tactfully before answering a question if the journalist uses a false assumption as a lead-in for the question.
  • Do not let a journalist rush or push you into a response. Listen to the entire question before answering and take your time in giving your response.
  • Do not let a “pregnant pause” force you into talking just to fill the air. Answer the question using your key points and wait until the journalist asks the next question.
  • Never say “no comment.” In the eyes of the audience, this response equals an automatic admission of guilt or wrongdoing, regardless of whether this is true or not. If you do not know the answer to a question, say so. If it is against policy to answer a question, say so.