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The Other “What Is Your Personal Opinion?” Trap

In my book The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview, I wrote about the hazards of answering a “personal opinion” question.

In this post, you’ll find that excerpt. But after reading it, you’ll find a second trap question the book doesn’t address—and it’s one you should be aware of before a reporter catches you off guard.

You’ll also see an example of how something so seemingly innocent can become troublesome, and quickly.

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Here’s How Chris Matthews Forced A Donald Trump Abortion Error

Donald Trump earned condemnation from liberals and conservatives alike on Wednesday for stating that women who get abortions should receive “some form of punishment.”

Trump’s campaign quickly realized he had committed a major error and went into overdrive to correct it. During one cleanup interview, his spokesperson admitted, “This was a complete misspeak.”

Interviewer Chris Matthews used a specific technique to knock Trump off script — and our trainees fall victim to it often.

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Why Good Media Interviews Are Like Threading A Needle

Media trainers often focus on what can go wrong during an interview. As a result, spokespersons can become fearful of the consequences of a badly worded thought.

Those risks are real, of course, but sometimes we don’t do a good enough job of reminding people that in many cases, the majority of interviews they ever give will not be adversarial in nature.

A spokesperson who thinks about what both they and the reporter want from the exchange can succeed at threading the needle between their goals and the reporter’s needs.

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When Throwaway Comments Become Your Lead Quote

Many years ago, a client told me a story that serves as a useful cautionary tale for everyone who interacts with reporters.

The man, who represented a government agency, was friendly with a local reporter. The two socialized after hours on a regular basis, but had an agreement that whenever the reporter called his buddy at the government agency in his professional role, the usual rules of media interviewing would apply.

One day, the reporter called his pal and asked for a comment. Unfortunately, his friend said something he shouldn’t have.

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Donald Trump’s “Off-The-Record” New York Times Interview

On January 5, 2016, Donald Trump visited the editorial board of The New York Times. Some 30 editors were reportedly present for the meeting, portions of which were agreed by both parties to be off the record.

Late last week, a columnist for the Times who attended that meeting wrote a piece suggesting that Trump was more flexible on his immigration views than he was letting on publicly.

This incident offers a cautionary tale about why going off the record is risky — and adds a new rule to my list of things to consider if you’re ever inclined to speak in that manner.

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Happy Thanksgiving: The “Watch Your Back!” Edition

It’s become something of a Thanksgiving tradition for me to post this video of Sarah Palin from 2008.

The backstory: Shortly after her defeat in the 2008 general election, she visited a local turkey farm in Alaska to pardon a turkey. She was oblivious to the bloody turkey slaughter taking place behind her.

But this isn’t a “Palin-bashing” article. As you’ll see, other people have made similar mistakes. And in this post, you’ll learn how to avoid them.

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Beyond The Interview: How To Influence a News Story

In this guest post, a fellow media trainer writes that “One of the key success strategies we’re seeing from our media training sessions is a shift in focus from interview practice to non-interview practice.”

He writes, “That’s not to say that practicing interviews isn’t the most important aspect of media training—it is. But there are some sophisticated non-interview techniques that can influence the story perspective.”

In this post, he will offer you several ideas to help influence the final story—before the interview ever takes place.

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Media Interview Bridging: Is Bridging An Outdated Practice?

In my series about media interview bridging, I’ve explained the importance of bridging and showed you how to execute the technique effectively.

But I wanted to acknowledge a debate in the public relations industry about whether or not bridging is an outdated practice that should be abandoned.

My short answer to that question is no. But the critics make a few points worth examining—so in this post, I’ll look at the main objections and assess their validity.

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