During the crisis communications process it is crucial to be aware of trick questions are, well exactly that. Meant to trip up the unsuspecting speaker, trick questions are a tactic that some, not all media agencies use to confuse, miss-direct, or catch the unintended speaker in a lie, or exaggeration as to the true level of control of a crisis. This is simply because as in the past political figures were primarily the victims of these tactics, however in the age of more and more unethical events in big business such as Enron, and others the public as well as the media expect more from the companies that provide us goods and services. As stated before crises such as Enron have made big business fair game in the media realm, and being able to trip up and catch a high level executive with his proverbial hands in the cookie jar is somewhat of that golden egg every media reporter wants to get, that one great story!
Tactics used to achieve in getting the impossible story range from in the heat of the moment questioning (A.K.A. the bomb question), asking hypothetical questions (A.K.A. the imagination question), the silent question (A.K.A. hanging yourself), and lastly the off the record interview (A.K.A. the gotcha).
In the heat of the moment questioning (otherwise known as the Bomb) is meant to catch the speaker off guard with the question that they do not have the answer to, or all the pertinent facts to respond. It is the question feared by many a spokesperson simply because without the proper response prepared, it will appear as if you are not well versed on the crisis, and possibly leads to the public thinking you are not in control of the incident.
To ensure this never happens, it pays for the spokesperson to prepare key messages or talking points that they want to ensure they deliver on to convey their message. If then the question arises that cannot be answered, have a statement prepared for response such as “I...