In DPK Public Relations' Media Interview Skills Training sessions, we encourage spokespersons to steer away from participating in news conferences if possible. Why? News conferences are high risk affairs. Any time you get a pack of reporters together -- a bunch of massive egos in the room -- it is inevitable that each will attempt to out-do the other.
What often results for the person fielding questions is a public disemboweling. Each successive inquiry getting more acute.
But we typically will include a news conference scenario so the trainees get a taste of what it can be like to be peppered with challenging questions from a group of people. It's particularly challenging because there is no consistent line on thought in a news conference. Each questioner comes with their own ideas of what is important. Each is pursuing their own angle of the story.
We train spokespersons to take it all in stride and remember their purpose for doing the news conference in the first place is to deliver their messages -- not to be in a responsive/defensive posture but to be in an assertive/proactive posture.
So I really enjoyed watching the following clip of Lance Armstrong fielding questions at a news conference in advance of the Tour of California. Just to set up the clip, let me explain that the reporter asking the question has been a critic of Armstrong's. For various reasons, not the least of which being Lance's dominance of the sport of cycling smack in the middle of the doping era (HGH, EPO, steroids, etc.), Lance is not highly regarded by many in the U.K. and Europe.
The actual content of the question isn't all that important, though. I want you to pay attention to what Lance does:
Did you see that? He used a difficult question from a reporter who has attacked him personally as a platform to deliver his message. And he did it with a SMILE on his face! Wow. Terrific. But he did more than that -- he responded to the question. He was not the least bit evasive.
You may run into journalists who are crusaders and want to prove something at your expense. Don't take it personally. Remember that this is business and you have a job to do. Dealing with difficult people may be a part of the job. Rise above them and stay focused on what you are there to do.
Thanks to KCRA TV in Sacramento for the clip!