There are two subjects etiquette professionals will tell you to never discuss at a dinner or cocktail party: politics and religion. And while it might be easy to say something light that implies your opinion followed by a graceful turn and natural exit from a social function, talking to the media about touchy subjects such as politics, religion or something regarding your business can be tricky if not uncomfortable – but it doesn’t have to be.
During press interviews, executives are often asked to comment on subjects, such as the latest breaking news story, which can be controversial in nature or carry negative connotations. Not only can providing an opinion too loudly leave you at risk of segregating or offending your audience, but as a member of the C-Suite, your comments are a direct reflection of the company. So what do you do – especially when your response should be neutral at best?
Keeping a response neutral can be difficult when you have strong opinions of your own. But that’s the kicker – those are your opinions, not those of your company. Your words must echo the sentiments of the business and protect the corporate identity. To do so, present the facts of the case. Take a step back and examine the situation from an outsider’s perspective. Discuss both sides of the argument, adding in the pros and cons of each. For example, if asked to comment on tax policy, state the facts without seasoning your words with opinionated tone. Discuss President Obama’s plan by explaining how both parties are reacting to it. Leave out your personal political affiliation, as companies are not registered Democrats or Republicans.
Keeping the conversation factual will protect you while also framing you as both knowledgeable and a thought leader regarding a particular subject. In the end, the discussion will be of more value to the reporter because the conversation will have been filled with every angle for the story, painting a complete picture for the writer and reader.
And if you are feeling at a loss for what to say when asked your opinion on President Obama’s tax policy or another difficult subject, remember, stick to the facts!