One of the five key things to prepare yourself or a subject matter expert for an interview is practicing interview techniques. Bridging is a technique that allows for a smooth transition from answering a question to ensuring a command message is included in your response. It is a great way to avoid answering a question, but it need not always be used in that context.
As a public affairs communicator who conducts interviews, it is important to know the other contexts for using bridging. You can also use it to provide greater context to a story you share with the media, or if the interview strays outside of your command's message, you can use bridging statements to redirect the conversation.
Keep these four R's in mind when you practice bridging as an interview technique. The more you practice, the easier it is to refocus the messaging during an interview.
- Reinforce your command message using supporting facts
- Redirect the conversation to your command message
- Respond with a solution when asked about a problem
- Repeat your command message
Using Bridging Statements
The goal of bridging is to emphasize the most relevant details to support your command message. When using bridging statements during an interview, you should
- address the central element of the question,
- then use a transitional phrase as a bridge to your command message.
A response may follow this structure:
[Answer] [Bridge] [Message]
Make sure to acknowledge the question, use a transitional phrase and focus on your command message. Successful bridging keeps the media focused on the key messaging of your command.
If bridging isn't necessary, directly answer the question and include a command message.
The following are examples of situations where you can incorporate bridging statements during interviews to ensure the focus remains on your command message.
Can you tell us what happened?
[Answer] At this time, I am not allowed to discuss all of the details due to security constraints. [Bridge] What I can tell you is [Message] our relationship with the community is a priority and must be actively preserved.
Is the noise from flight training exercises an everyday occurrence?
[Answer] Our current schedule allows for flight training exercises once per week. [Bridge] We'd like you to know [Message] the installation commander cares about the local community and our commitment remains steadfast and enduring.
How long will it be before the situation returns to normal?
[Answer] Relief efforts are ongoing. While we do not have a specific date, [Bridge] what's most important to remember is [Message] community support is a priority for us.
Why wasn't more done to prevent this from happening?
[Answer] I don't know, but we are looking into the situation. [Bridge] The heart of the matter is [Message] our success depends on our partnerships in the region and improving communication and cooperation.
It's okay to say you don't know something when you don't know. Let the reporter, community member or media know you will work on getting an answer for them as soon as possible.
Use the following resources to sharpen your skills on using themes, messages and talking points to construct effective responses.
Hyer, R. N.; and Covello, V. T. (2005). The 33 most frequently used bridging statements. Effective Media Communication during Public Health Emergencies: A WHO Field Guide, 39.