Most company spokespeople quickly learn interviews with journalists aren’t always as simple as providing ready answers to softball questions. Sometimes, reporters ask questions you don’t know how to answer, or questions you don’t want to answer.
But fear not! That’s where the block-and-bridge technique comes into play. It’s every spokesperson’s not-so-secret weapon to use when faced with a surprise or difficult question. It allows you to steer an interview back toward more favorable and mutually beneficial topics while avoiding a dreaded “no comment” response or other potential PR headaches.
Done well, the block-and-bridge technique allows you to maintain a friendly rapport with the reporter while keeping the conversation focused on your core messaging.
A Quick Primer on the Block-and-Bridge Technique
If you’re unfamiliar with the block-and-bridge technique, don’t worry. Here’s a quick overview:
- Acknowledge the reporter’s question (you never want to outright ignore it).
- Transition to a topic that more closely aligns with your core messaging goals.
In practice, you may say something like, “Thanks for bringing that up; however, it’s also important to emphasize…” then introduce the more favorable topic.
When to Use the Block-and-Bridge Technique
You may be thinking, OK, I get the concept. But what are some specific situations when it makes sense to use it?
The block-and-bridge technique is so versatile, it can be used in a variety of instances. Here are five scenarios where you may find it particularly useful:
- When asked about competitors: As tempting as it may be to respond at length to a question about your competitors, doing so generally isn’t beneficial to your business goals. It takes the focus off your business and the key messages you want to get across to the reporter and their audience. Better to block with a simple positive comment, then bridge to highlighting the values and benefits of your business.
- When asked about looming business announcements: Did the reporter just ask about a pending business move or decision that you’re not ready (or unable) to discuss publicly? Avoid a messaging mishap with the block-and-bridge technique. Try something like, “I can’t discuss that today, but what I can talk about is…” to get back to a topic or talking point that you can share.
- When asked questions to which you don’t know the answer: This may be the most classic of scenarios for the block-and-bridge technique. Rather than respond with an “I don’t know” or “no comment” — both of which make you come off as less than open or honest — enlist the block and bridge technique to redirect the interview to something you do know how to answer: “I can put you in touch with someone who knows more about that, but what I can tell you right now is…”
- When asked questions that don’t align with your expertise or business goals: Like any conversation, a media interview can sometimes branch off onto any number of tangents. And while you may have something interesting to say about some of them, it’s often better to steer clear of questions or topics that don’t explicitly relate to your expertise. Remember, you’re representing your industry and business. What you say will be interpreted as coming from your organization. “That’s a fascinating subject, but what matters more to our customers is…”
- When a reporter doesn’t understand the issue: It’s not their fault. Reporters are busy, often covering a wide range of topics, and assigned stories with little backstory or knowledge. So, if they ask a question that reveals their ignorance or misunderstanding of a topic, use it as an opportunity to help them by way of a block-and-bridge along the lines of, “Although I understand why some may see it that way, it’s actually…” This approach provides an efficient and friendly way of correcting the reporters’ misunderstanding without offending them while pivoting to a topic you can address.
Landing media exposure can be a boon for your business. But it doesn’t come easy, and preparation is key. If media relations is an important part of your PR strategy, the team at Aker Ink can help you master any media interview and secure consistent coverage.