Five Reasons You Need a PR Person With You When You Talk to Media

Most organizations have rules requiring that a PR staffer be present or listening on the call when someone does media interviews. This "minder" is actually there to help both the interviewee and the journalist to make the interview a success, rather than being just the PR police. Some people will not feel comfortable with having a minder but I have found that it helps if you explain why it is in their interest. There are, in fact, some very good reasons why they benefit from having a PR pro present during a interview. Here are the top five:

1. PRE-INTERVIEW BRIEFING. Before the interview starts your minder can quickly brief you about the journalist, their publication, stuff they have written in the past, things they are working on at the moment and the news headlines that the journalist might have seen and could ask about. This helps to avoid surprises and makes you look much smarter.

2. TAKING NOTES. During the interview the PR minder will be taking notes -- or at least they should -- of the points that have been covered, things that you promise to send later, questions that need to be referred to someone else and so on. This means that you just have to focus on the questions and have one less thing to worry about. These notes will also be valuable if there is later any problem about the coverage.

3. HANDLING THE FOLLOWUP. As a subject matter expert you probably have other things to do so it is helpful to have someone else take care of the followup, sending all the things you promised to send later, fielding further questions and so on. You will not have to worry about remembering this because it is their job to make sure you do.

4. WARN OF LEGAL DANGERS.  There are many things that you are probably not allowed to mention for legal reasons -- usually anything connected to the stock market, antitrust law, patent applications, litigation and so on. A good minder will save you from getting into trouble by intervening when a question leads into one of these areas. This will save you some trouble with your boss and the company legal department.

5. PROTECT YOU FROM SAYING TOO MUCH. Just having another person in the room or on the call makes it much less likely that you will tell the journalists things that perhaps you shouldn't. When there are just two people in a conversation there is a natural tendency to say much more, perhaps things that you intend to be off the record. When someone else is listening and taking notes this doesn't happen and the minder doesn't even need to say anything; the deterrent effect works just by being there.

People who work for their own business or a startup so small it doesn't have any media relations policy might not have any rules requiring that there be someone else present during interviews. But because of these five benefits I would recommend that everyone have at least another person in the room. If you don't have a  full-time PR person maybe you could have a freelance consultant sitting in on the interview. And if your budget doesn't allow that then at least have someone else from your team in the room. Just by sitting there they are still helping, but if they can also take notes then better still..


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