July 13, 2009

Shaping your messsage

We use a number of effective tools to help shape messages.  In a crisis/reputation management scenario, I usually focus on either Message Mapping or the Rule of Threes.

Message Mapping can be effective in developing effective responses to a critical line of questions, where inaccurate information is built into the premise.  It takes a little time to work through.  Think of Message Mapping as a good “defense.”

A good “offense” is found in the Rule of 3s.  Before every interview, I ask my clients what three pieces of information they want to present during the conversation.  Public speakers use a similar approach when developing presentations.

I also like to illustrate the rule of three by sharing with a client that they can survive three days without water, three weeks without food and three minutes without oxygen (that is the friendly reminder to breathe during an interview).

In all seriousness there are three rules of three that are very useful in interview situations.

The first has to do with your disposition during the interview.  You should be authentic, prepared and conversational.

The second is what do when confronted with hostile questions.  You should answer/acknowledge the question, bridge the discussion (usually by providing a natural transition) and convert the discussion to one of the three items you identified in advance of the interview.  Justifiably, reporters hate this approach.  Some people have abused this approach to the point where a reporter could ask the subject what time it is and he/she would break into a talking point.

The third is, have a conversation, engage the reporter and ask questions of your own.  Remember, this is a conversation.  Transition your confidence into asking questions of the reporter about his or her knowledge of the situation.  Now, you don’t want to do a reverse news conference.  Just ask a question to help you clarify your response.  Reporters have to know a little about a lot, help them to get the most accurate story possible.

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