Clients and Phone Interviews – What’s Your Role?

Stained Sticky Notepaper Pad with Broken Pencil and Telephone HandsetCongratulations! You’ve scored a phone interview for your client with a big name reporter. Now comes the big question – do you join in?

I have worked for people that have stood on both sides of the issue as to whether or not you should be on the phone while a client does the interview. If the decision has been made that you will be listening in, do you tell the reporter you are on the other line? Do you chime in? Or, do you just pretend you aren’t there and take a back seat? And, what do the reporters think?

There are so many opinions that surround this topic; I thought I would poll the PRBC crew and a couple of reporters to get their thoughts.

Resoundingly the responses from the PRBC were “Yes, be on the call!” However, every situation is different.

Client by Client

As PRCog so eloquently stated “it’s really client by client – some like the reassurance that someone’s there, some don’t need the spoon feeding.”  If you have a new client, being on the call might prove to be advantageous. You can get a sense of how they respond to questions, learn more about their expertise and the company itself, and get the overall feeling of how the client is with the press.

For your more media-savvy clients, you may not feel the need to be on the call. However, you could offer to be there in a more administrative capacity and that you are solely there to see how the interview flowed and do whatever follow up may be necessary.

Additionally, you might want to take into account the actual story topic.  A reporter I polled said that “I don’t mind at all when publicists are on the phone call, assuming the story is not an investigative piece.”

Follow Up

Another reason some prefer to get on the line is purely for the sake of follow up. An anonymous reporter I asked about this topic said, “What I really like about having the publicist on the line is that it sometimes saves me time, because he/she knows exactly what follow-up information is needed and neither the source nor I have to spend time explaining what is still needed after the interview.” That’s right folks. If you are on the line, then you know what you need to get that reporter after the interview – bio, headshot, etc.

Mute it or Chime In

In many cases, PR-pros get on the phone, but put their end on mute. Other times, there are those that actually chime in during the interview from time to time. One reporter stated that “one thing I really hate is when the publicist chimes in and starts asking questions. I know this is a well-intended effort to help, and I appreciate that, but it takes up time and often takes the interview in a direction different than the one I want to take. Also, in some cases the publicist thinks he/she knows what I want to know, but they don’t.”

Yet, our own Keith Trivitt says that “I have noticed that a lot of the reporters I work with actually like it, as they’ll cite something I told them prior to the interview, and then I can jump in quickly and reiterate that point so my client will elaborate on it.”

Absence & Accuracy

You know the story – reporter interviews client, reporter writes story, client says “hey, wait, I didn’t say that.” Or, how about the “your client never picked up the phone for the interview” incident? Both of these potential disasters are the primary reason why PRBC’s CT Michaels says that he gets on all the calls.

So, readers what are your thoughts? Do you get on the line with a client and reporter? Do you steer clear? If you are on the line, do you participate?

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