Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Talking to fill the silence

If you've ever been interviewed by a journalist, you may have experienced a tactic designed to keep you talking. You're answering, you're answering, you finish -- and silence. The other guy doesn't say anything, doesn't ask the next question, just looks at you expectantly. So you start answering again. And maybe putting your foot in your mouth.

That's talking to fill the silence. Don't fall for it. It's one of the oldest tricks in the book.

How I wish some folks caught in the media glare would get that: Jon and Kate Gosselin, SC Gov. Mark Sanford, maybe even Katherine Heigl. I'm talking about you. There comes a time when the rest of us just do not need to know anything else about your personal lives.


But there may come a time when your company or organization faces this interview tactic. Remember, answer the question and then stop. Here are some other tips for facing the media:

  • Don't blame
  • Don't repeat a negative
  • Don't volunteer tough topics, especially when you don't really know the answer
To be fair, the Gosselins and Katherine Heigl are considered to be celebrities and their representatives apparently believe in the old adage "There's no such thing as bad publicity". Their tendency to spill is most likely less about being caught by an interview trick and more about the quest for fame.

And your organization probably isn't raising sextuplets and divorcing, mysteriously disappearing from important governmental duties or starring in a summer movie. So you don't have to talk about those things.

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