Editor’s note: When we have the opportunity, we feature guest posts from people whose opinions truly matter in this industry. Any time we can get information from a member of the media, we jump at the opportunity. This is Jennifer Audette’s second guest post on our site, and while it is geared toward other members of the media, you can glean quite a bit from it, whether you’re a PR professional or a business owner contemplating the pros and cons of hiring someone to handle your PR tasks for you. Please also take a moment to read Jennifer’s previous post about media pitching do’s and don’ts.
There’s always an idealistic, spirited journalist going “No. You. Will. Not.” But I see and have experienced the pros of having a PR agent on the phone with you during an interview or escorting you during a press event.
For starters, we don’t know everything. We don’t. Journalists like to act like we do. But trust me, we get lost. We walk into the wrong conference rooms. We confront the wrong politicians. We misidentify celebrities.
· As much as we hate to admit it, we need help from time to time. Sure, perseverance is one of our strongest traits, but seriously, so is asking questions. So ask for help. Ask for directions. Ask a PR person to meet you at the front of Legoland. Ask for them to introduce you to your interview subjects if you’ve never met each other before.
· Sometimes, you will ask your subject a question they just don’t know the answer to. Saves you a phone call by having the PR person next to you or on the phone to answer that question or promise to find the answer for you.
· In theory, a passionate PR rep is also extremely knowledgeable on the subject you are writing about. After all, they’ve written press releases about the company, person or event you are writing about. So use that knowledge to your advantage. You may be done with your interview, but the PR rep may realize there is something cool you may not have known about, a bizarre hobby you don’t know the subject has or a little-known milestone in a company’s history. Maybe before your interview, ask the publicist if there’s any questions she’d ask if she could.
· There is a different air when an interview is person to person, just you and your subject. No doubt your subject will tell you things they probably wouldn’t if there was a PR agent there. So, if a PR person is present, have some chutzpah. Resolve to ask whatever you want. Even if you know it will make them squirm, or interrupt, or maybe even end an interview, be strategic and ask the question.
· Don’t let a PR person do your interview for you. The good ones will know how to change a conversation or get you chatting about something else. Sometimes they’ll throw in a question or two, and before you know, you’ve lost control of your interview.
A savvy media-relations professional will understand the delicate give-and-take between making his client happy and keeping his media friends content. Sometimes that means giving a journalist some freedom when covering a story, and sometimes that means protecting your client’s image by being present and available.
Jennifer Audette is the assistant metro editor for business and features for The Ledger and TheLedger.com.