As a parent there are many times that you’ll have to answer awkward questions.  This week it’s been “where do babies come from?”  Obviously, it’s a bit inappropriate to spell this out to a three year old, but how do you get a good balance? And how much information do you give away?

After thinking about this for a while I realised that answering these questions from Penny was a lot like fielding questions from a journalist. So, here are my top 5 tips for answering questions that you might not be entirely comfortable with.

1. Tell the truth

Honesty is the best policy, if you lie to a journalist it will definitely come back to bite you when they discover the truth.  Not only will your client’s reputation be damaged, but you’ll also ruin your relationship with the journalist and risk any chance of being featured in their publication in the future.

2. But not the whole truth

Sometimes it’s best not to go into too much detail, as you may end up revealing too much and damaging relationships with your client or the media. Remember that PR is meant to be strategic, so don’t give everything away up front if you’re planning on releasing more information later for greater impact.

3. Put a positive spin on things

If you have to deliver bad news, try and find the positive.  

Penny: “why is Simba’s daddy died?”

Me: “because it was his time to go, but now he gets to go to heaven.”  

Probably not the best example, but to promote your clients in the best way you should follow up doom and gloom with something positive.

4. Refer back to past experiences

To help Penny understand complex theories, such as life and death or where babies come from, it helps to remind her of things we’ve talked about before.  In the same way, reminding journalists of previous good news can provide context for your answers and provide a positive background for the interview.

5. Make it easily understandable

Sometimes you need to break things down to help people to understand them, particularly if you have a client in the technology or science industry that deals with complex theory.  If a journalist understands what you’re talking about then it’ll make for a better story and your key messages are more likely to be retained.

 

Who’d have thought that raising a toddler could teach us so much about PR?  Do you have any top tips for answering awkward questions?

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2 thoughts on ““Where do babies come from?” OR How to Answer Awkward Questions

  1. Well handled!

    There’s another lesson here: questions are usually more interesting than answers (at least, that’s what this university lecturer believes). What was the answer to the question about life, the universe and everything? 42! (Now what are you going to do with that answer?)

    People (journalists, toddlers, students) don’t always ask a question to learn an answer, but to gauge a reaction.

    NB You also have to develop good questioning and listening skills to work with bosses and clients.

    Like

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