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We’ve all seen media spokespeople try to dodge and evade difficult questions before.
Sometimes they may completely ignore the questions and answer something entirely different.
On other occasions they may attack the question or suggest they ‘know what the journalist is trying to do’.
Another unadvisable approach is to rigidly stick to a pre-prepared script or statement.
One interview we saw recently saw a spokesperson repeat the same phrase, with absolutely minimal variation, no less than 10 times, making it a memorable interview for all the wrong reasons.
It came as the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys American football team faced reporters after one of its players had been cut from the team following his arrest for a shoplifting incident.
Despite it later emerging the player had been the victim of identity theft and been released without charge, his removal from the team remained, which led to some difficult questions.
You can see the press conference in all its absurdity below, but essentially all coach Jason Garrett would say was that ‘yesterday we made a decision that we deemed to be in the best interest of the Dallas Cowboys. We’re standing by the decision. We’re going to move on.’
Variations of this response included ‘I’ll stand by the statement that I made. We made a decision yesterday that we felt was in the best interests of the Dallas Cowboys. We’re going to stand by that decision. We’re going to move forward.’
There was no explanation as to why this decision still stood.
Instead, this robotic, dismissive approach went on and on until Garrett himself got bored saying ‘guys, this will be the last time I’ll say it…’ before once again repeating the same tired line.
The embarrassing three minute episode ended with the coach being met by silence from reporters when he asked the journalists if they had ‘any other football questions’ they would like to ask him.
This ill-thought out approach made Garrett and his team appear unnecessarily defensive and it turned the press conference itself into an issue – surely not an outcome any organisation would want. Here's what some of the journalists who were present made of it:
I got up and walked out of the dumbest press conference ive ever seen and that covers a lot of ground. -dale #WFAACowboys— dale hansen (@dalehansen) July 25, 2017
The Jason Garrett presser just looked and sounded a lot like Sean Spicer. Cowboy fans deserved better.— Babe Laufenberg (@BabeLaufenberg) July 25, 2017
Jason Garrett and the Cowboys have made Lucky Whitehead a hero— Jean-Jacques Taylor (@JJT_Journalist) July 25, 2017
You don’t need me to tell you that Garrett did not want to speak about the case, but sometimes spokespeople are going to face interviews on challenging subjects.
The journalists who were interviewing Garrett were asking question on behalf of their audience – Dallas Cowboys fans.
On our media training courses we always tells our delegates they cannot evade or ignore questions on issues they do not want to talk about. We stress it is vital they at least address or, better still, answer the question they have been asked before moving on and trying to steer the conversation.
Avoiding the questions and rigidly sticking to a pre-agreed line containing no real substance made Garrett appear unhelpful, impolite and frankly, silly. It also damaged his and his organisation’s credibility.
For a sport so heavily dominated by strategy this was a bizarre tactic and one other media spokespeople must avoid.
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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