The title of this post might be a little misleading. I’m not suggesting for a minute that you treat a journalist with anything but respect; underestimating your interviewer would be a dreadful mistake.
But as any parent knows the best way of getting a child out of a tantrum or strop is distraction and the same can be said of an interviewer who is bent on asking difficult questions that you don’t want to or can’t answer.
When a child get fixated on a toy or a sweet that they really want and they start to play up, screaming, crying, generally being badly behaved one technique most parents will use is to change the subject and find something to distract them. “Look over there, what’s that?”
The same technique can be used in an interview. If the journalist is taking you down a road you really don’t want to go down then acknowledge their question (you don’t have to answer it, just respond to it) and then distract them; move them on to a subject matter you’re comfortable with but one that is also interesting to the journalist. Take them back to one of the key messages you want to get across but make sure it’s well illustrated with a colourful example so the journalist doesn’t feel short changed, you may not have directly answered the question but you’ve given a really good, interesting response.
It was a successful transaction, you’re happy and the journalist is happy.