Recent Trump interviews have brought this topic back into the headlines. A Google search on “abruptly ended interview” yielded over a half-million results so it clearly happens more than it should. Whether it is a print or broadcast interview, the result is always the same. The act of ending the interview becomes the story and anything that was said before that moment is quickly disregarded. It’s the adult equivalent of taking your ball home because you don’t like how others are playing.
So, why do people go through the effort and agree to speak with the media just to quickly end it when they aren’t happy with the questions? Simply, they are ill-prepared, believe that their walk-out will reinforce that the media is wrong to ask about a topic, or some combination of both. Let’s explore best-practices when preparing for any media interview.
1. Expect any question to be asked: Tough questions are generally not pulled out of thin air. They are often generated by the topics that you or your client have talked about in the past. Once that door has been opened, then reporters are free to ask questions on the subject.
2. Prepare responses: Knowing that anything can be asked, prepare a clear and articulate response to the topic. Even if you don’t want to expand or give a specific answer, at least have a response so that you do not appear to be caught off guard. Because you aren’t ready to discuss the subject, doesn’t mean that the journalist is not.
3. Establish ground rules: Before granting an interview, we can request that a journalist not veer off topic and venture into a specific area. The journalist must explicitly agree to ground rules before the interview takes place. When this request is made, there may be a legal, regulatory or personal reason that you don’t want to, or can’t, talk about something. But even if this agreement is made, you should still have an appropriate response in your back pocket. Something other than walking away would be ideal.
Never underestimate the power of the pen. Abruptly ending an interview demonstrates a lack of preparedness, an inability or no desire to clearly articulate answers to the “tough questions.” This disrespects the rights of the press, shareholders, stakeholders, elected officials and the public’s right to know what your response is on the topic. Before walking out, decide if you want part of your legacy to include the image of you not able to respond to the adult questions.