Following our recent exposé on the 'Rule of 3', here's another PR treat for you.
Ask yourself this question: In media interviews, how do celebrities, politicians and influential figures deflect uncomfortable questions without sounding evasive, elusive or plain rude?
Answer: Zealously care about people's patience.
How does it work?: Taylor Swift - the world's biggest popstar - was once asked why she's so secretive about her political leanings. She employed a deliciously subtle deflection technique that influential figures use every day. Take a look at her answer:
"Well, I'm just a twenty-two year old singer, and I don't know if people want to hear my political views - I think they want to hear me sing songs about break-ups and feelings."
Perfect answer. Brilliant. Textbook.
Watch her smart deflection for yourself, click below:
What did she do that's so clever?
She empathised with the needs of other people - seemingly prioritising them ahead of her own.
Why is this technique so effective?
Empathy is a powerful communication tool at the best of times, but in a media interview, when your 'back is against the wall', its potency multiplies. If you ever find yourself facing an uncomfortable press question, ironically, to sidestep it, your discomfort should be presented as the least important thing in the conversation. By placing the general public's time, patience and interest ahead of your discomfort, you (a) sidestep the question, and (b) appear empathetic while doing so.
To anyone watching Taylor's interview, roughly translated, she said, "No one cares about my politics, I'm just a singer."
Think about it... don't we all love people who respect our time? Of course we do. Facing the same question as Taylor, a rookie would've answered, "I'd rather not answer that" or "I don't want to talk about that" or "That's personal!" - all ill-advised responses. Why? Because they contain zero empathy. You see, all three answers place the interviewees feelings ahead of the interviewer's need for an answer, which in the real world is perfectly justified, but in the media and entertainment arena, is evasive and will almost certainly open the 'backlash box'.
However shrewd Taylor's response was, though, it was also duplicitous. Fact is, thousands, maybe millions of people do care about her political beliefs. Need proof? Well, years later, she publicly backed two democrat candidates, condemning the opposing republican candidate Marsha Blackburn in the process. Taylor's political 'coming out' was international news and directly influenced how her 112 million online fans voted.
Think about it... never in human history has PERSON 1 disliked PERSON 2 because PERSON 2 is "too empathetic". Empathy is a trait we all value, because mostly, it allows us to talk more about ourselves. [Never underestimate a person's fondness for talking about themselves]. Consider the most empathetic person you know... you love unburdening yourself to them, right? Have you ever thought, "Gosh, I wish he/she didn't care about me so much"?
Finally - remember this?
In the immediate aftermath of the Dominic Cummings scandal, we counted SEVENTEEN awkward interviews where Boris Johnson graciously argued, "I don't think the public want us to waste any more time on this." Maybe true, but I wonder if what Johnson actually meant was, "I don't want to waste any more time on this - it's deeply embarrassing."
For PR advice, management & consultancy, email Abi Lowell on firstname.lastname@example.org - she'll never evade you.