One-word answers to a reporter’s questions are never a good idea until they are.
Secretary Pompeo proved the effectiveness of this strategy in recent interviews around Soleimani’s killing. In the interest of safety and strength, he was right to answer serious questions like “Any plans to evacuate the embassy in Baghdad, sir?” and “Any plans to pull some of the 5,000 U.S. troops in Iraq out?” with a simple “none.”
“None” communicated his point, left no room for misinterpretation, and underscored the severity of the situation. But it’s also interesting to note that he didn’t lean into the interview with a one-word answer. He first gave a 30-second assessment of what happened, which enabled him to be concise in his following two answers.
We often encourage clients to fill the time they’ve been given because you only get so many questions to communicate your message. But if the nature of the interview is such that national security is at risk, one-word answers are not only allowed but recommended.