Question: Should PR Pros Participate During Interviews?
One of our clients recently suggested a terrific idea for a blog post.
In his role as a PR pro, he often sets up interviews for his subject matter experts. His protocol is to be on the call to listen in on the interview (reporters know he’s on the line). His presence helps him keep his experts on point, allows him to fulfill reporter requests for follow-up items, and gives him a sense of which coworkers need a media training refresher.
During the interview, when he thinks it might be useful, he answers the occasional question or adds to something his colleague said. But he’s also aware that jumping in too much during the call can make some reporters bristle.
Here’s his question: How involved should PR pros be during interviews with reporters?
I asked a similar question a few years ago (that post gives a great perspective from a reporter’s point of view), but I’d like to be more precise this time by asking you the specific factors that go into your decision of whether to jump in or remain silent.
Does it depend on the nature of the story?
Does your relationship with the reporter change the equation?
Do you jump in more with less experienced spokespersons?
Do you usually hold your tongue unless the expert commits a factual error?
Do you view yourself as a “co-interviewee” whose responses as an organizational spokesperson are as important as the answers from the subject matter expert?
Do you even care if reporters bristle as long as you’ve guided your spokesperson toward good answers and away from potentially damaging ones?
Has a reporter ever “punished” you in the resulting news coverage for interrupting the interview with the expert?
We’d both like to learn from you on this one. Please leave your thoughts and experiences in the comments section below.
I can tell you from 30+ years as a reporter (before recently jumping to communications consulting) that having someone in the room to listen to the interview was fine by me, whether it be an in house PR person or a hired gun. And now that I’m on the other side of the divide, I recommend it. Why? Because anyone, even the most accomplished speaker who has been well-prepared can make a mistake. At the end of the interview, your colleague can advise that you mis-spoke. As a reporter, I’d have no problem in giving my interviewee an opportunity to correct a fact. However, the PR person should NEVER interrupt an interview in progress, not unless they want to make themselves the news clip.