One Plus Three

three plus one

When the press (or a regular person) asks you a question, how do you answer?


Start with a single word or short phrase.  Follow this up with 3 sentences in descending order of importance. Only about 25 words will get printed, so stay on topic.

The paragraph above is an example of this.

Nothing is more annoying than a long, rambling answer that says nothing and won’t get printed.  It’s a waste of everyone’s time and hurts your public image.  In the west, we expect our executives and spokesmen to give quick, informative answers.

A Little Math

When talking to the press–be it an interview or a press conference–it’s important to stay focused and keep your answers concise.  Press won’t quote anything longer than about 25 words (unless it’s a full interview, of course).  You want to be quoted.  You really do. Quotes are what let you set the tone and control the message.  The One Plus Three rule is a simple way to remember how to structure your replies and keep them short.

Eliminate the Unnecessary

The 1+3 rule also forces you to be more efficient with your answers.  Eliminate all the unnecessary fluff from your answers.  Don’t say “Well, that’s a very good question” or “I’d like to take the time to answer this thoroughly”.  Just answer it.  Give enough of an answer to keep the interview going, but but not so much that there’s nothing left to ask.

Keep Them Asking

The other advantage of short answers is that it encourages the interviewer to ask more questions. If they want more details, they have to ask for follow up.  Asking follow-up questions is good for the interviewer and good for you.  It maintains a conversations instead of turning things into a soliloquy. Those belong in Shakespeare, not a press conference.

As you become more comfortable with your answers and better understand the requirements of each situation, you can adapt your replies to fit the situation.  To start with, however, follow the rule of thumb.

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Since 2011, Blaze has worked in China as an English-language consultant with top companies from Germany, France, Italy, and the U.S. He has over 25 years of experience in education, communication, and marketing.

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