What if you can’t answer the question?

One of the most frequently raised issues on our media training courses is something along the lines of ‘what am I supposed to do if I don’t know the answer to the reporter’s question in an interview?’ In fact, you will often be asked by a journalist for information that you cannot retrieve off the top of your head.  It is easy to get quite defensive in these circumstances, feeling you are somehow letting the side down by not knowing.  Don’t imagine the reporter assumes that just because you are a company spokesperson, you will automatically know all the current information and data on all of its activities – of course you can’t.  In these circumstances it’s better to be quite open. Rather than conveying your awkwardness and over-apologising, just say something like “I don’t have that information/those figures offhand, but I’ll do what I can to get them for you, and come back to you.” You have bought yourself a bit of extra thinking time – and the journalist would generally prefer the right answer in twenty minutes rather than the wrong answer now.  But do make sure you remember to follow through.  In a live radio or TV interview, don’t draw attention to the gap in your knowledge.  Just say something like ‘I don’t have the specific numbers on that in front of me, but what I would say is….’ (From The M-Factor by Tom Maddocks.)