Whether you are being interviewed by a print, broadcast or online reporter, you should structure your answer in what journalists call the “inverted pyramid” style. That is, you lead with your most important message. For many executives, this is in direct contrast to the way they approach a problem, that is, by gathering the facts and building a case for a proposal or recommendation.
Just read the lead article in your daily newspaper tomorrow, and you’ll see that the most important news is in the “lead,” or the first paragraph. Unless you have a personal interest in the subject, it is doubtful that you will read the entire article. The facts will be written in descending order of importance, with background detail at the end of the story.
When framing your answer, think in “headlines.” Your headline should be short and simple with one idea. The headline is, in effect, your most important key message that you want to communicate to the reader or listener. It will be supported by evidence, examples, facts, personal experience, anecdotes, visuals, etc. In a television interview, you may not have time for more than one headline and a couple of supporting facts.
As an example of a headline, the House of Representatives is investigating brain injuries to football players. Facing a barrage of nasty questions from House committee members regarding National Football League policies and research, the Commissioner Roger Goodell responded, “I can think of no issue to which I’ve devoted more time and attention than the health and well-being of our players, and particularly retired players.” This is the key message he wants as his takeaway: that baseball is committed to the health and well-being of its active and retired players. Time will tell if his message holds up or is refuted.