A recent survey of 50 journalists by the Public Relations Global Network revealed that members of the Fourth Estate are truly ticked off by business executives who demonstrate three specific traits:
– Arrogant behavior
– Failure to answer sensitive questions
– Attempt to control the content that appears in the article.
I’ve had many dealings with each type of executive, as well as a fourth: the executive who cancels an important interview at the last second.
A surprising number of business leaders are clueless about the role their deportment plays in the eventual outcome of an interview.
The arrogant one not only risks becoming the subject of an unflattering profile piece but, worse, could jeopardize any possibility of a long-term working relationship with the journalist.
The executive who pleads the Fifth Amendment when asked sensitive questions will also end up frustrating a reporter. My all-time favorite example of an evasive, obfuscating executive is the guy in this CNBC clip from a few years back (Cadbury-Schweppes). Note how the executive refuses to answer any questions whatsoever about his company, his industry or his competitors. Note also how frustrated the journalists become at his evasiveness. I guarantee he was never invited back.
And then there’s the executive who confuses media relations with advertising. At the end of an interview, she’ll demand to see the reporter’s copy before it appears in print. While some reporters will agree to fact check a quote, the best will most certainly not share their copy in advance.
What these business executives don’t know about their boorish behavior is the direct impact it has on:
– Their professional image
– Their organization’s image
– Their PR firm’s reputation
Agency representatives work long and hard to nurture key relationships with the most important editors, reporters, bloggers and influencers. When a business executive blows off an interview at the last second, refuses to answer legitimate questions or comes across as Roger Mayweather, Jr., it’s the PR professionals who bear the brunt of the reporters’ ire. And, it only takes two or three such incidents to completely undermine a solid relationship.
The time to vet a potentially explosive or uncooperative business executive is not when a live interview is underway but, rather, during pre-scheduled media training. That’s when you can determine if the executive is too tightly wound, unwilling to share key information or thinks he walks on water.
It’s too bad such executives don’t realize the extent of the damage they cause.