“Hey. Good question”

Even if you believe the interviewer really did ask a good question, keep it to yourself.  Maybe it was the very question you hoped would be asked so you could deliver your important message.

But journalists can be a suspicious lot.  The greener ones will take the compliment about the ‘good question’ and feel more kindly toward the interviewee.  Maybe.  The craggier ones will think they are being buttered up and will be anxious to get on to questions the journalist knows his subject will not think are good ones.

In my 49 years as a journalist, interviewing thousands of people, I have noticed that the “good question” tactic is becoming more popular, reaching an all-time high in 2016.  I wonder where that advice comes from.

In my last hosting gig on radio, I would sometimes  amuse myself and my producer Mary Feely, on the other side of the glass, by counting the good question compliments.  I would raise an extra finger with each one.

Finally, I would tell the interview subject something like:

“You know, you can’t butter me up.  Compliments will get you nowhere.  You seem to be saying that it is impossible for me to ask a bad question, which I know both possible and likely.”

This of course always amused Mary and my tech producer Kelvin Lopes and derailed the interviewee’s train of thought.  Once off message, it is hard to get back on.

Also, do not fall off the wagon on the other side.  Don’t comment on what you think are bad or tough questions, just carry on with your answers.  Unless you are a part of a debate panel, where arguments are expected, just focus on the message you had originally intended to answer, based on good and solid preparation you undoubtedly got from a professional communicator.

Back in my newspaper days I always remembered the adage:  don’t pick a fight with somebody who buys ink by the barrel.

To that I add: don’t try to irritate or annoy a broadcaster who always has the last work.  Just do your thing.

And if the interviewer gets snippy with you, remember that when they go low, you go high.  But then again that advice didn’t work for Hillary, did it.