Buchanan: Treatment of US CEOs differs among European journalists

American CEOs granting interviews to the media in Europe will notice a lot of similarities, but there are nuances in the ways some countries practice journalism.

American CEOs granting interviews to the media in Europe will notice a lot of similarities, but there are nuances in the ways some countries practice journalism.

That is according to the results of a study conducted by the Public Relations Global Network, which surveyed 165 journalists in 14 European countries to examine practices in preparing for and conducting interviews and reporting on them.

One of the most striking differences is that in some European countries, it is common practice for a journalist to permit a source to review his or her quotes – and often the entire article. Forty-one percent of European journalists said they allowed the CEO or PR firm to review quotes before publication. And 21% said they allowed the CEO or PR firm to review the article in advance, depending on the relationship with the company or PR agency.

US CEOs should also be prepared to have their private lives examined more closely by the media in some European countries. In Germany and Italy, for example, about half of the business journalists surveyed said they closely assess a CEO’s private life in forming an impression of him or her.

CEOs who have had negative articles appear about them may face an uphill battle in Switzerland, where 94% of reporters say their main source for preparation is past media coverage. The European average was a more moderate 58%.

American CEOs preparing to be interviewed by a European journalist should examine the top sources these reporters use for interview preparation: annual reports (64%), news releases (59%), and past media coverage (58%). Do they adequately tell your story?

Also, charm goes a long way. An engaging personality, cited by 86% of European journalists, was the second-highest trait desired in CEO sources. Arrogant behavior (75%) was the biggest turnoff, and Spanish journalists said boorish behavior (94%) was the worst mistake a CEO could make.

Finally, chief executives should also consider consulting with an in-market PR expert before agreeing to an interview. Local knowledge – both of the reporter and the journalistic customs and practices of an overseas market – can be invaluable.  

Anne Buchanan is founder and president of Buchanan Public Relations, which is a member of PRGN.

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