Q: The CEO of one of the companies I work with, a pretty well-known
telecommunications firm, was recently profiled in a national business
magazine. What we hoped would be a thoughtful look at the challenges she
is facing in the market, and the innovative ways she is meeting them,
turned into a hatchet job. Our agency set up the interview and provided
information to the journalist, but our key messages were all but
ignored. How should I help the client deal with this extremely
disappointing result? Should I reassure her that, "all publicity is good
Mr. D, Denver
A: You did not mention whether or not you were present during the
I will assume that you weren't, because it appears that you were just as
surprised by the result as everyone else. Dare I ask if you suggested
that you sit in during the interrogation? Of course, many journalists
will balk at the suggestion, but you do have some opportunity to win
them over to your point of view.
Let's get back to the problem at hand. Fetch the offending article and
diagram it. Make a list of the good points (there must be some redeeming
value - did they spell her name right?), and the negative points, and go
over them with the client in a proactive way. Discuss with the CEO how
the messaging can be strengthened in the weak areas, in both preparing
the reporter for the interview, and in its execution.
Had you been present during the interview, you would have witnessed
first-hand how the client handled the questions. Regardless, you also
need to assess if there is a need for the CEO to have additional media
training. Tact will be your best friend!
Finally, don't let one bad article spell the end of the story. If this
"national business magazine" found your client compelling, one of its
rival publications will likely be interested as well. Pitching a more
focused, well-prepared story to a rival may pay off.
One more thing, sugar plum. Never utter that trite cliche, "All
publicity is good publicity" again.
Q: I am an AAE in a boutique agency and my supervisor has just told me
that I am up for a promotion to AE. I have to interview for it with the
CEO, but my boss said that he really likes my work and he thinks I am
ready. The trouble is, I don't know if I'm ready. The AEs in this firm
have a lot of responsibility and a really high profile with the
What if I can't handle it?
Ms F, Boston
A: It speaks volumes for your character that you are carefully
considering the big responsibility that a promotion entails.
That fact alone leaves me with no doubt that you are ready to take on
But I want you to feel totally confident about your decision. It seems
to me that you really don't have a clear idea of what your new position
would entail. You have every right to thoroughly discuss the
ramifications of the position with your supervisor before you make up
Ask for a meeting with your boss, before you have an interview with the
CEO. Ask him or her all the things that you would normally ask in a job
For example: Why does the firm think you are the right person for the
job? Ask them to be specific about your perceived skills so you can
assess if they have a clear idea of your capabilities. What is the
average day like for an AE? What would be your salary in the new role?
Arm yourself with all the necessary information and then decide if it
sounds like a good fit.
Do you have a problem that no one else has been able to solve? Try
Pandora. E-mail her at pandora@ prweek.com.