The Media Question You Should Always Answer
At the end of most print interviews and many edited radio and television interviews, reporters ask a question along the lines of:
“Is there anything you’d like to add?”
“Did I miss anything?”
“Is there a question I should have asked?”
They ask those questions not only as a courtesy, but to make sure they haven’t forgotten to ask something that would improve their understanding—or their audience’s understanding—of your topic or point of view.
Unfortunately, many interviewees fail to take advantage of that final “gimme” question. They’re often so stressed by the experience of being interviewed that they can’t wait for it to end—so when the reporter asks that final question and signals the interview is nearing its close, they decline the chance to offer another response. That’s a huge mistake. When given a wide-open opportunity to say whatever you’d like to say, take advantage of it.
There are at least four ways to answer that closing question.
1. Restate a message you already delivered but want to reinforce
Reporters will leave your interview with many pages of notes or several minutes of “tape.” By restating a message you already delivered, you can signal to the reporter that you view that point as important. It’s not a guarantee they’ll use it, of course—but in my experience, it increases the odds that they will. Plus, there’s some evidence that restating a point toward the end, rather than in the middle, makes it more likely to be remembered.
Restating a message doesn’t mean regurgitating a complete answer you already delivered verbatim. Rather, it means finding another way to make the same point. Repeating a key phrase a time or two during the interview is okay—but avoid the type of insincere repetition that compromises your credibility.
2. State a message you forgot or weren’t able to get out during the interview
If you came into an interview with three main points but only managed to get two across, you can use the final gimme question to make your third point.
Along those lines, clients often ask if they’re able to look at their notes during an interview. For telephone interviews, the answer is yes. For others, it’s not a great idea—with one exception. When a reporter asks whether you’d like to add anything, it’s okay to take out your notes to take a quick glance, even if you’re in a television or radio studio. When you find the point you’d like to add, put the notes away, pause for a moment, and then deliver your answer.
Be careful to keep your notes obscured. If the reporter or camera captures your points, they may become part of the story. For that reason, I prefer a single note card to a lengthy document for your notes.
3. Redeliver an answer you delivered imperfectly
Many spokespersons are most nervous at the beginning of an interview and warm up as the interview continues. At the end of an interview, you can re-answer a question you tripped over at the beginning. Remember: for most interviews, reporters want a clean sound bite from you—so they will appreciate you giving them a better take (and in the rare circumstance they don’t appreciate it, they can always run your first take anyway).
Just tell the journalist you answered an earlier question imperfectly and would like another try. But limit the number of attempts—no reporter has patience for a perfectionist spokesperson who demands 12 takes to find the one they like.
4. Correct a misperception, false premise, or flawed angle
During the course of the interview, you might detect a recurring misperception that undergirds many of the reporter’s questions. Hopefully, you corrected those misperceptions along the way—but the gimme question offers another opportunity to set the record straight.
The problem with this approach is two-fold: it can sound defensive, and it prevents you from making a more positive point. But there are times those downsides become necessary risks, and in those cases, you can use the closing question to help shift the angle of the story (hopefully!) slightly more in your favor.