Why ‘sticking to key messages’ is not always good advice

Doggedly sticking to your talking points, regardless of a reporter’s question, can often do more harm than good. Instead, take a different tack to build trust and bolster your credibility.

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The prevailing wisdom in PR has been that you should keep hammering away at the key messages you’re trying to get across in a media interview, no matter what.

Is the reporter asking you a completely unrelated question? Doesn’t matter—repeat your key message.

Do they want to speak to you about an issue or topic your key messages don’t even cover? Doesn’t matter—repeat your key message.

Is the interview a fairly relaxed conversation about your company’s strategy, rather than a reputation-destroying crisis? One size fits all—just repeat your key message.

If you do this enough, this line of PR thinking goes, your points will stick and the reporter will repeat them. The industry even gave this approach a name of its very own: “block (the reporter’s actual question) and bridge (to your key message).”

Great—except it rarely works.

Without a doubt, messaging is vital to PR success. Your spokesperson or leader should know the story they want to tell, how to tell it and why. However, that’s very different from the “block and bridge” definition of a key message: a narrowly worded statement, aimed exclusively at promoting the speaker’s self-interest and repeated ad nauseam.

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