Is three a crowd or should PR people sit in on media interviews?

They say three's a crowd and sometimes it feels like the phrase was intended for PR and comms professionals who sit in on media interviews.

Is three a crowd in an interview situation? asks Adam Fisher
Is three a crowd in an interview situation? asks Adam Fisher
The journalist doesn’t really want you there and if you interfere directly in the interview it can go disastrously wrong. 

It can feel like a no-win situation but that does not mean it should be avoided.

Sitting in on an interview can be vital to the success of an interview, particularly if you have an inexperienced and nervous spokesperson who needs a reassuring presence in the room while they speak to the media.

At the end of the interview you are ideally placed to praise them for what went well and highlight any areas that may need improvement.

Certainly in a crisis environment I would expect the PR person to be present during interviews. 

This is not about hand-holding, as you should be using an experienced spokesperson, but it is likely there will be numerous requests for interviews and being present will enable you to manage conflicting demands and have an accurate record of who has been spoken to and what has been said.

It will also enable you to have a greater understanding of what journalists are looking for, the questions they are asking and the angle they are likely to take. 

But if you have an experienced spokesperson, who has had recent media training, and the interview subject is not controversial, do you really need to be there? 

Letting them carry out the interview on their own could create an impression of greater transparency. It could also allow the spokesperson to build positive relationships with reporters, helping raise their profile as an industry leader or expert and leading to the journalist wanting to interview them again.  

If you do choose not to sit in on these interviews, make sure you have a mechanism in place to record what was said and how the interview went. 

Increasingly I notice more and more interviews are being carried out by telephone as reporters battle against a range of time constraints.

This often means they are conducted on speakerphone so the PR person can listen. 

But this really impacts on the sound quality and if the reporter can’t clearly hear what your spokesperson is saying there is more chance of them being misquoted.

Most modern office and mobile phones allow for an observer to ‘barge’ into a call so that they can earwig on the conversation while the spokesperson can use the hand-held receiver.

If you do this, make sure the reporter is aware you are listening to the call.

Ultimately, the decision on whether there is room at the interview table for PR pros comes down to gut instinct and judgement on the experience of the spokesperson, the subject matter and the journalist who will be carrying out the interview.

But don’t feel you automatically have to sit in on every interview your spokesperson carries out. 

Adam Fisher is content editor at MediaFirst

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