Don’t drop the ball when you get this ‘gimme’ interview question

Whether you ‘meet the press’ on camera, on mic or for a print article, that final, comprehensive follow-up query affords you a marvelous opportunity. Here’s how to make the most of it.

At the end of most interviews—for print, radio or TV—journalists ask something like this:

  • “Is there anything you’d like to add?”
  • “Did I miss anything?”
  • “Is there a question I should have asked?”

They pose those questions not only as a courtesy, but also to make sure they haven’t forgotten to ask something that would improve their understanding—or their audience’s understanding—of your topic or point of view.

Unfortunately, many interviewees fail to take advantage of that final “gimme” question. They’re often so stressed out by the experience that they can’t wait for it to end—so when the reporter asks that final question and signals the interview is nearing its close, they decline the chance to offer another response.

That’s a huge mistake.

When given a wide-open opportunity to say whatever you’d like to say, take advantage of it. Here are four ways to answer that closing question:

1. Restate a point you want to reinforce.

Reporters will leave your interview with pages of notes or several minutes of audio or video recording. By reinforcing a key message, you signal to the reporter that a given point is important. It’s not a guarantee they’ll use it, but it increases the likelihood that they will. Plus, restating a point toward the end, rather than in the middle, makes it more likely to be remembered.

Restating a message doesn’t mean regurgitating verbatim an answer you already delivered. Rather, it means finding another way to make the same point. Repeating a key phrase a time or two during the interview is OK—but avoid the robotic repetition that compromises credibility.

2. State a message you forgot or couldn’t get out earlier.

If you came into an interview with three main points but only managed to get two across, you can use the final gimme question to make your third point.

Along those lines, clients often ask me if they can look at their notes during an interview. For telephone exchanges, the answer is yes. For others, it’s not a great idea—with one exception. When a reporter asks whether you’d like to add anything, it’s OK to take out your notes to have a quick glance, even if you’re in a television or radio studio. When you find the point you’d like to add, put the notes away, pause for a moment, and then deliver your answer.

Be careful to keep your notes obscured. If the reporter or camera captures your points, they may become part of the story. For that reason, I prefer a single note card to a lengthy document for your notes.

3. Redeliver an answer you delivered imperfectly.

Many spokespersons are most nervous at the beginning of an interview and warm up as the interview continues. At the end of an interview, you can re-answer a question you tripped over at the beginning. For most interviews, reporters want a clean sound bite from you—so they will appreciate your giving them a better take. (In the rare instance they don’t appreciate it, they can always run your first take.)

Tell the journalist you answered an earlier question imperfectly and would like another try. Limit your number of attempts; no reporter has patience for a perfectionist who demands 12 takes to get it just right.

4. Correct a misperception, false premise or flawed angle.

During the interview, you might detect a recurring misperception that undergirds many of the reporter’s questions. Hopefully, you corrected those misperceptions along the way—but the gimme question offers another opportunity to set the record straight.

The problem with this approach is twofold: It can sound defensive, and it prevents you from making a more positive point. Someimes those downsides become necessary risks, and in those cases, you can use the closing question to help shift the story angle to something more favorable.

Brad Phillips is president of Phillips Media Relations. He is author of the Mr. Media Training Blog (where a version of this article originally appeared) and two books: “The Media Training Bible” and “101 Ways to Open a Speech.”

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