Does it surprise you that this is an issue that PR firms sometimes have to grapple with? More often than not, our clients appear at press briefings on-time and prepared to talk with important reporters and analysts in their industries. However, there are times when an executive isn’t able to make it to her briefing or a director vanishes right before his scheduled interview. Over the years, we’ve heard a wide variety of justifications when this happens and we’re here to counter the most common ones. If your PR firm has worked to get you a briefing, or if your company’s news item is exciting enough to elicit a response from the press, you should always seize the opportunity for an interview.
We realize these explanations for missing a briefing sometimes come from a legitimate concern. Here’s a closer look at common reasons for skipping briefings and our response:
“I don’t know enough about the product/service being discussed”
You, too, can read a spec sheet and consult a product engineer before a briefing if you’re concerned about the level of your knowledge. Furthermore, if you’re starting to be asked too many technical questions, your PR firm can step in and arrange a second or follow-up briefing with an engineer. However, if we set up this interview in the first place, you’re likely the best candidate for the conversation and by virtue of working for your company, you’ll have plenty to contribute about your vision and new developments as a business.
“I don’t have time”
We get it—you’re at a tradeshow to form new partnerships or it’s launch day for a new product or division. You’re busy. We’d like to take this moment to remind you how important a briefing opportunity can be for your company’s PR strategy. How often do your really get the chance to directly influence a story about your company or product with the person putting that content together? This is one of the best ways to shape the public’s perception of your company with the press, so if you have the opportunity to interview directly with an editor or reporter, we suggest you reprioritize and make the time. If a last minute conflict comes up that absolutely cannot be changed, let your PR firm know as soon as possible so that we can work to find the next suitable interviewee.
“I don’t want my name on the line”
Relax. We won’t put you in a situation that we’re uncomfortable with, either. If you haven’t participated in many (or any) press briefings, we understand how intimidating they can be. Before backing out though, let your PR account rep know your concerns and they should give you some talking points. Additionally, an experience firm should have further training opportunities available in advance of a briefing opportunity to help prepare your company’s executives when talking with the media.
“I don’t have the right person available”
Sometimes, we don’t even get far enough to have the interview subject bow out – rather, the marketing director closes the opportunity before we get there. If this is you, please think twice. Even if your “ideal” voice for the interview isn’t available, think hard about whether (with some coaching ahead of time) your second choice might work.
“I don’t want them to twist my words”
We’ll help you though an interview if the stakes are high. But for the majority of the mid-size B2B companies we work with, your press briefings are a chance to just explain your company or new product to a trade magazine that publishes directly for your primary audience.These editors aren’t interested in an exposé. You’ll be fine. In the exceedingly rare case that a reporter misconstrues an important piece of information, your PR firm can help get a correction issued promptly.
Occasionally, we set up a briefing by phone or in person at a tradeshow, and the executive in question simply never appears. Falling through on an agreement with the press never bodes well for either you or your PR contacts. If you haven’t already done so before an interview, swap cell phone numbers with your primary PR rep so you can, at the very least, shoot a last minute text message if something truly unavoidable comes up.
We understand that PR can be a low priority for many executives and engineers busy at work on other projects. But if you receive an invitation for an interview, we highly encourage you to be clear about your concerns, do your homework ahead of time, and make time for the opportunity so everyone can benefit from what you have to say. Press briefings are simply too valuable to ignore.
Need some help getting briefings for your executives and engineers? We can help.
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Caroline Haley authors the column “Caroline’s Cloud” and is Vice President, Outreach & Operations for Milldam Public Relations.