How To Create a Bulletproof Response

How To 3 min
Information plus a command message (tailored communication, directed at a specific public and aligning to a specific theme, in support of a specific end state) equals an “effective response.” However, a truly effective response can go above and beyond that goal, making the answer to a question and the command message grammatically inseparable.

Constructing a well-thought-out response keeps the message and information intact while reducing the possibility of misquoting or "cutting" as the quote is shared. There is much less of a chance that a news outlet or social media troll can misconstrue the information or position.

Combating misquotes is a formidable challenge, as media outlets and internet trolls alike know how to cut into a sentence and take the parts they want, for whatever purpose. But, a studious and committed Public Affairs Officer can likewise use the power of pronouns and sentence structure as a shield against these tactics.

Follow the steps below for an impenetrable effective response.

Write a short, concise independent clause. This answer should contain the information portion of the effective response.

FOR EXAMPLE, A REPORTER MAY ASK
 

"Is the road safe to travel on?"

AN ANSWER MAY BE
 

"The road is safe."

Write an independent clause containing the message.

FOR EXAMPLE
 

"We are committed to ensuring ingress and egress via this road remains safe."

Create a single compound sentence using a comma and coordinating conjunction, such as and, or, but, nor, so, for, yet.

FOR EXAMPLE
 

"The road is safe, and we are committed to ensuring ingress and egress via this road remains safe."

Add a subordinating conjunction to the first clause, such as if, although, whereas, as long as, when, until, unless, before, whenever, while, despite, after, etc. Replace the repeated subject with a pronoun and adjust wording accordingly. Because the subordinating conjunction makes the first half of the compound sentence (the information) unable to stand on its own, it becomes more difficult for a reporter to quote the clause without the second half of the sentence (the message).

FOR EXAMPLE
 

"Despite the road being safe, we are committed to ensuring ingress and egress on it remains so."

Remember that a pronoun refers to the antecedent. Switch so that all pronouns are in the information clause and all antecedents are in the command message clause. This makes it so the reporter must keep the command message when quoting the spokesperson to be clear about the subject. This process is not foolproof, and reporters can still paraphrase or partially quote, but concise wording makes paraphrasing difficult. The compound sentence structure leaves too few keywords for a partial quote, tangling information and message into a strong, unified, effective response.

FOR EXAMPLE
 

"Despite it being safe, we are committed to ensuring ingress and egress via the road remains so."

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