“Gotcha” questions are back! Remember the infamous Sarah Palin/Katie Couric interview? Palin struggled when Couric asked the former V.P. candidate to name the last newspaper she read. The interview later became an SNL skit when she was asked about Russian foreign policy and Palin answered with “I can see Russia from my house!” Now, GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump says he is the latest victim of “gotcha” media questions after a conservative radio host asked Trump to name the heads of major terrorist organizations. Trump couldn’t do it and complained that the host was out of line.
News flash to all candidates: It is your job to understand key facts and current events pertinent to the job you are seeking; and it’s the media’s job to ask difficult questions. Are all media questions fair? Probably not. But you are in deep trouble if you are running for the highest office in the land and you can’t talk your way through these questions. When consulting any political candidate, I recommend two important steps:
Step one- Do your homework. You have a staff and a budget for this kind of thing and you should have a personal interest in gaining knowledge of the community you plan to represent. If you are not covering potential media topics on a daily basis with your team, you may not have the right team in place.
Step two- media training. One of the most critical tools I cover during media training workshops is the ability to bridge and pivot from difficult questions or issues you should not be addressing at that time. With proper media coaching this is not difficult to master and is a mandatory skill for a politician, particularly one running for President of the United States.