For Successful Media Interviews, Use the Rule of Three

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  • August 29, 2018
  • Kari Hernandez

You’ve heard of the rule of three? Look around and you’ll find that this ancient Roman rhetorical device proves over and over (and over) again that words, concepts, and characters that come in threes are more believable, satisfying, and memorable.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Alvin, Simon, Theodore.

Some are more profound than others.

Three is the smallest number to form a pattern. Our minds love patterns. Our minds remember patterns. Our minds can use patterns to our advantage in media interviews.

See what I did there?

As a spokesperson, developing key messages that follow the rule of three can help you retain control during a media interview and ensure your key points make it into the story. Why so? If you try and communicate more than three messages 1) you won’t remember them all, 2) the reporter won’t remember them all, or 3) even if you get them all out and the reporter gets them all down, they won’t include more than three points in their story. Conveying more than three messages makes the reporter do more work by choosing which messages to prioritize. Also, the ones they choose may not be what you would have chosen, or what your leadership team is hoping to see.

Agreeing to stick to three messages seems easy but I repeatably see brilliant people write messages that cheat the system. They pack each of their three messages with multiple concepts, rendering them moot. Each message is so complex that they struggle to remember them unless they memorize the entire paragraph verbatim.

This doesn’t work during an interview or Q&A setting. For one thing, memorizing things by heart will result in a pretty stodgy response. What do we recommend? Three simple concepts that are easy to remember and understand.

Fast. Convenient. Secure.

Reliable. Efficient. Innovative.

You can hold these three concepts in your mind at the same time. You can work them all into one sentence and then elaborate on each of them with examples and stories of why they solve for a particular customer need. There is flexibility in the simplicity of this messaging construct that allows you, as a skilled spokesperson, to weave them into an answer, no matter the question.

Better yet, construct your three key concepts not from product differentiators, but from customer pain points. For example:

We give IT professionals an infrastructure that:

  • Works with them, not against them
  • Benefits from economies of scale
  • Can predict and solve problems in real-time.

With this framework, you can elaborate on and continue to return to those three customer benefits throughout the entire interview. You can tell your story in different ways and adapt to the interests of the journalist and their audience, while still staying on message.

Figuring out compelling key messages that speak to a customer pain point and need, and not just a product benefit, is easier done from the outside looking in (and best done after some solid research) – that’s where we come in.

Give us a shout if you’re interested in brand positioning and messaging, media training, or any of our communications services that build off the foundation of solid, streamlined, rule-of-three messaging.

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