Should PR People Listen In On Interviews?

Major media placements are huge wins for companies, but when you get that big interview, how should you handle the logistics? Specifically, should a PR person listen in on the interview in the background as support, while the journalist speaks with your company representative?

The answer to this question isn’t always yes or always no. It’s a judgment call.

As a former reporter and editor, I know that most journalists prefer the one-on-one interview. Having another person in the room or listening in on the phone line can lead to the interviewee giving safer, less interesting answers. On the other hand, the interviewee might need or like to have the support of a PR professional.

There are many factors to consider, including:

Ultimately, the decision is best reached through communicating with all involved.

To provide an idea of what journalists think of PR people sitting in on interviews, let’s look at responses that Richard Deitsch, Sports Illustrated’s sports media critic, received after he tweeted the following on Tuesday:

Richard Deitsch ‏@richarddeitsch
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.
Here is a small sampling of the responses:
Ed Werder ‏@Edwerderespn
@richarddeitsch Certainly not with great joy. I usually tolerate it and lower my expectations for the material interview will produce

Don Van Natta Jr. ‏@DVNJr
@richarddeitsch Push back as hard as possible. If it's the only way a subject will talk, insist PR cannot reject Qs or "moderate" the Q&A.

John Ourand ‏@Ourand_SBJ
@richarddeitsch Life's not black-and-white. Sometimes it helps; sometimes it hurts. Generally, interviewees are less candid with PR around.

Tim Layden ‏@SITimLayden
@MySecondEmpire @richarddeitsch On [rare] occasions when it happened, I felt compelled to be tougher with subject, to control the room

Arash Markazi ‏@ArashMarkazi
@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.

Will Carroll ‏@injuryexpert
@richarddeitsch Doesn't bother me if they're just listening in. When they start "suggesting" edits, I have some issues.

As you can see, there is some variance of opinion among these journalists, but there is a general consensus that PR professionals shouldn’t interject themselves into the interview. It didn’t take long for PR professionals to start chiming in with their thoughts. Again, a sampling:

Keri Potts ‏@MsPotts_ESPN
@kentbabb @richarddeitsch I jump in w/ info my guy doesn't have but writer asks; ratings, historical stuff; I look it up while u chat.

Adam Czech ‏@adamczech
@richarddeitsch As a PR guy, I hate hovering. But sometimes my boss wants me there.

Gail Sideman ‏@PUBLISIDE
@PaulPabst @Ourand_SBJ @richarddeitsch Sometimes we publicity types only hang out for sake of verifying facts, keep client at ease.

To see more of the conversation, visit:
When PR People Insist On Monitoring Interviews
- PR People and In-Person Phone Interviews

The ultimate takeaways of this are: 

  1. When it comes time for that big interview, consider all the various factors in total to decide whether you want a PR professional present to monitor the conversation. 
  2. If you do decide to have a PR professional present, they should avoid interrupting and maintain a supporting role — be present to help the journalist and the interviewee have a better interview, whether that is merely helping the interviewee feel comfortable or providing supporting data to the journalist.

Post written by HRmarketer / SocialEars HR team member Eric Anderson.


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