Seeing Red: Good manners matter

Manners maketh the meeting - particularly when it comes to journalists, believes BBH comms director Sarah Pollard.

Whatever happened to manners in business? Ha, I hear you cry, they went out with the Mad Men. Well, my professional pet hate is the creepingly common sight of a journalist turning up to an interview unprepared.

It’s so easy these days. This thing called Google enables you, in seconds, to find out everything about someone including what they had for lunch. Can’t be bothered? Fine. How about you just read the briefing notes I sent you? It was only a page, punchy bullet points, key facts, the sexy bits. It was practically a Buzzfeed listicle. So when you meet the interviewee – who has taken the time out of their busy day to meet you (happily, usually they get the importance of PR) – you might at least have prepared some questions? Or what about bringing a pen and paper (I’m not making this up)? Or an electronic device that works, perhaps? 

Journalist X turned up recently to network and profile us. They barely asked a question. I asked plenty, of course, because at this stage of proceedings I morph into a performing monkey just to fill in the silence.

I think it’s just basic manners. As PR professionals, we are very fortunate to be working in this era, with the multitude of channels and all the opportunities they give us, but sometimes I crave a well-schooled, old-school, sharp journalist who will ask the insightful questions. Ironically, even when these questions are uncomfortable, at least this reveals that they have bothered to dig deep enough to find out what the challenging questions might be.

We know that the relentless news cycle has changed the demands put on a journalist and speed has replaced craft, but I still think manners can be modern too.

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