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If you’ve read this blog before, particularly when we have analysed media interviews, you will know we talk about bridging a lot.
For those not familiar with the term, or who just need a bit of a refresher, it is a media training technique which helps spokespeople take control of interviews.
Essentially, it is a way that a spokesperson can respond to a difficult or challenging question which they may not want to answer, by using a form of words to move the conversation back to the topic they really want to talk about.
When it is used well, it sounds very natural and it can be difficult for most people to detect. However, when the technique is used without the necessary subtlety, it is very obvious to the journalist and the audience that bridging is being used.
So what exactly are good bridging phrases? How do you develop a form of words which will get you from the reporter’s question to the message you want to get across?
Well, as we tell delegates on our media training courses, the key to good bridging is for spokespeople to develop their own words and phrases which they feel comfortable with and that work for them.
Where is the best location for media training to take place?But if I left it at that the blog would be pretty short so here are a few pointers to get you started.
For example, the phrase ‘the most important point here’ has been used so often that it is now worn-out and completely lacking in subtlety. Similarly, ‘what I can tell you is’ is also overdone.
Additionally, telling the reporter ‘that’s a good question’ is not bridging. It is a way that a spokesperson can buy a little thinking time, but they still have to respond to that question.
Here are 14 better alternatives:
“That’s how /not how I see it – going back to…”
“That is a concern, but what our customers tell me is more important is…”
“That’s not my experience. When I talk to our customers…”
“People have said that, but the key thing to remember is…”
“I can’t speculate on that, but what I can confirm is…”
“That’s something I will look into, but what we are concerned with now is…”
“That’s an interesting point, but I think the bigger issue is…”
“I’m not sure about that. What I do know is…”
“We need to confirm all the facts before we can talk in detail about that. What we do know is…”
“It’s too early to talk about that, but we do know that…”
“That is a problem, but what we see as an even bigger issue is…”
“That’s something we are looking into, but the thing we are focusing on the most is…”
“I’m not sure that’s the case. What our investigations / research has shown is…”
“That’s one point of view. What I’d also like to say is that…”
The most important thing with bridging is not the words you use. What is crucial is that the spokesperson answers or at least acknowledges the question that they have been asked before trying to move the conversation on. Those who simply try to avoid questions they don’t like appear evasive and defensive.
Depending on the nature of the interview, they may need to spend a bit more time responding to the question than we have in the examples given above. If the interview is on a crisis issue, for example, spokespeople need to inject some human warmth and compassion into a response before trying to steer the conversation to their message.
Once they have bridged successfully, the key for spokespeople is then to develop their answers by telling a story or giving an example which is relevant to their target audience and has an element of the unusual or surprising in it.
In most cases the journalist will let you carry on as they know this is good for their audience – and that is ultimately what they care about.
Media First are media and communications training specialists with over 30 years of experience. We have a team of trainers, each with decades of experience working as journalists, presenters, communications coaches and media trainers.
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