Volume 4, No. 4
October 6, 2008
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Can You Get Away With Not Answering Questions?
Last week's vice presidential candidates' debate is my inspiration for this issue. Much has been said about how the candidates avoided answering the questions. The Republican candidate even stated at the beginning of the debate she wouldn't necessarily answer the questions.
How was this possible?
A live program with its time constraints provided the candidates with the opportunity to have control, particularly because no editing is involved. Taped or print and digital media interviews give reporters the control through the editing process.
What about the rest of us?
Not answering a question during any interview is a bad strategy if you want to build trust with the interviewer and the audience. Presidential campaigns are unique situations. Reporters want access to the candidates. For average publicity seekers, if you develop a reputation for being a difficult interview because you don't answer questions, reporters and talk show hosts will not want to interview you. Also, not answering questions will make you appear evasive and dishonest.
How to answer a question if the information can't be public
For example, if the answer would give away a trade secret or jeopardize a criminal investigation, answer by explaining why you can't provide the information. Never say "no comment," or, "I won't answer that," without giving an explanation. You will look like you're hiding something.