The TV reporter’s in front of you with a camera and a microphone. How do you make sure that your important content winds up on the air and not on the virtual cutting room floor? Here’s the secret: Only “60 Minutes” can roll video for as long as it takes to hang you. TV news reporters have to get on to the next interview. If you keep repeating the same thing over and over, they’ll be forced to use it.
Answer their question if you can. If you can’t, answer the question you wanted them to ask. How? Key messages.
There are actually four elements in this system:
- Key messages
- Proof points
Key messages are brief assertions – opinions — about your business or issue. For example:
Stagecrafters is an important economic development asset in Royal Oak.
You support them with as many proof points as you wish:
- Stagecrafters brings 20,000 people to the city each year, from as far away as West Bloomfield and Shelby Township.
- 45 percent of our patrons dine in Royal Oak before or after the show.
- Most of our patrons drive to the theater, spending tens of thousands of dollars in municipal parking lots.
You will create three to five key messages. Together they should cover every possible question a reporter – or anyone — might ask. You will respond to questions by bridging back to one of your key messages. If there’s time, you’ll support it with a proof point.
City commissioner: “Why should we grant Stagecrafters this special event permit?”
Stagecrafters representative: “We are an important economic development asset in Royal Oak. Your parking deck alone captures tens of thousands of dollars a year from our patrons.”
In the final stage, brainstorm to think up all the unfriendly, pointed questions you might encounter in an interview. Use them to make sure your message shield covers all your vulnerable spots, then rehearse your answers until you can bridge smoothly.
I recently watched the HBO movie “Game Change,” about Sarah Palin’s vice presidential campaign. After briefing her intensely and fearing she still will fail, the campaign staffers sit down to watch her debate Joe Biden. When a tough question comes up, they all shout at the TV, “Pivot! Pivot! Pivot!” then cheer as she smoothly bridges into one of her key messages, giving the answer she wants to the question she doesn’t.