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PR Pro to Client: “Take
Client A just called to tell you he wrapped a terrific phone interview (with a reporter you’ve been pitching) with major publication XXX.
“That’s great,” I reply. “I guess he called you directly. I trust you covered all the copy points?”
“Sure,” says client A, “and we discussed some additional issues as well.”
“Good,” says I, “what are they?”
“Oh, I can’t remember them all, we were on the phone nearly an hour,” replies A.
When the story is published, client A is immediately on the phone to you and he’s furious, claiming that he has been misquoted and that none of the important things he said were published. Even though your client had a prepared list of copy points, who gets the blame? Moi, of course.
Sound familar? It happens all the time. But there is a solution.
Tell your clients - No more telephone interviews with the print media. That’s right. Telephone interviews with print publications (ezines, newspapers, magazines, newsletters, etc.) are taboo, verboten, forbidden. No exceptions.
Since my specialty is media relations, it would seem that I have simplified my job, while at the same time committing professional suicide. But not really.
The telephone has always been a dangerous tool in the hands of clients who fail to prepare for interviews or who, in the heat of the exchange, give away too much or remember too little. But there is a much more productive and manageable technique that can provide a wealth of fresh content for the PR machine, while it will keep you out of the dog house.
So if you want to insure that your clients maximize their publicity opportunities, and eliminate downside risks, tell them to hang up the phone and launch their email app. Here are the new client rules for the media engagement management process in the email era.
When a reporter calls the PR firm, be sure to fully vet their interests, in a helpful way of course. Ask for specifics and then request that they email you their questions. Tell them this will expedite a timely response.
When a reporter calls a client directly, don’t take the pop quiz. Instead, beg off doing the interview during the call by telling the reporter a little white lie like, “I was just about to take a meeting and my day is hectic, but if you will email the questions I will find time to answer them and reply before the day is out.”
Organized reporters call with a list of questions at hand so asking them to send them along presents no inconvenience (It also helps you collect editorial email addresses).
To the client’s benefit, he has bought time to consider the questions, to call up data supporting his position, and to revise the replies as desired. Importantly, he can contact you to discuss the opportunity, to plan his replies and, if he truly is busy, hand off the questions to an associate. What gets submitted to the publication should be a polished second draft.
The very act of writing provides important benefits. It helps focus one’s thoughts and results in better prepared, more articulate responses that deliver the key copy points. Emailing replies tends to result in the publication of lengthier, more accurate statements with the correct spellings of names, URLs and associated company boilerplate material, the use of the current titles and photos (always send one with your reply).
The practice of email response produces a permanent record of one’s media engagements, but more importantly it provides fuel for the ongoing PR program because, whatever issues you and your client may be focused on, reporters will usually bring new ones to the table. And by capturing your client’s responses you have a head start on developing the next set of briefing issues for the media.
So instead of talking with reporters on the phone, beyond the pleasantries and fact-finding, tell your client to hang up and keep their email program loaded. In the digital age, written responses offer important benefits to the client, to the reporter and to the public relations practitioner.
Most of my clients are creative marketing services companies, read “vendors,” whose clients often rein them in as to when and how they can discuss their projects. Sometimes they are not even allowed to reveal a client’s name publicly. But even in the best situations, project launch dates tend to be unpredictable, which makes it difficult to manage a consistent communications outreach program.
So as a publicity platform, we leverage keys issues that drive our client’s industries.
Many more articles in Public Relations in The CEO Refresher Archives