A PR professional once shared a memorable anecdote with me. She had arranged for one of her colleagues, a content matter expert, to speak with a reporter from The Washington Post. On the day of the interview, the two of them huddled in an office and called the reporter.
They chose not to tell the reporter that the PR professional was on the line. At some point during the interview, the reporter picked up that someone else was in the room—and he exploded: “Who else is on the line? My interview is supposed to be with [NAME]. Get that other person out of the room!”
I thought of that story recently when a Sports Illustrated writer named Richard Deitsch sent his followers the following tweet:
To the journalists here: How do you react when a PR person insists on monitoring an in-person or phone interview with a subject? Curious.
— Richard Deitsch (@richarddeitsch) December 11, 2012
Some of the journalists who responded didn’t seem to mind very much:
@richarddeitsch As long as they weren’t butting in or interrupting, I usually didn’t mind.
— Dale Blasingame (@normalguyguide) December 11, 2012
@richarddeitsch That’s life in the NASCAR world. PR people probably sit in on 90 pct of driver interviews.
— Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) December 11, 2012
@richarddeitsch annoying, but I’ve never had a situation where the PR person jumped in to stop anything. Has actually helped sometimes
— Dan Levy (@DanLevyThinks) December 11, 2012
But others clearly resented the intrusion:
@richarddeitsch I’m ok until they interject. If there’s a “don’t answer that” or “please ask that differently,” I turn into the Hulk.
— Kent Babb (@kentbabb) December 11, 2012
@richarddeitsch Hate it. I could say it’s fine if they don’t interject but even their presence I think changes the mood of the interviewee.
— Arash Markazi (@ArashMarkazi) December 11, 2012
@richarddeitsch ask the same questions as normal, and note in the story whenever the handlers intervene to bail out the subject
— Jonathan Tamari (@JonathanTamari) December 11, 2012
In general, I think it’s a reasonable practice for PR professionals to sit in on an interview. They often serve as a useful resource who can gather any necessary follow-up information for the reporter, clarify points the principal mistakenly gets wrong, and enforce the pre-established interview ground rules. That said, I generally believe it’s best to disclose the presence of another person to the reporter.
What do you think? Do you side with the reporters who viewed the presence of PR professionals as acceptable, or with those that regarded it as a nuisance? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.
h/t: Jim Romenesko