Terminating interviews abruptly is not good strategy

There are times when storming out of a media interview or abruptly bringing it to a close can be a useful shock tactic and an effective way of raising awareness of an issue or unreasonable behavior by a journalist.

There are times when storming out of a media interview or abruptly bringing it to a close can be a useful shock tactic and an effective way of raising awareness of an issue or unreasonable behavior by a journalist.

However, this tactic should be used sparingly and, in 99% of cases, it is an unwise policy.

The issue was brought into the spotlight again this week when BlackBerry maker RIM's co-CEO Mike Laziridis terminated an interview with British journalist Rory Cellan-Jones after objecting to what seemed a perfectly reasonable enquiry.

“We've been singled out because we're so successful” was Laziridis's off-the-cuff response to the hardly combative Cellan-Jones' question about security compliance issues in the Middle East and India.

His subsequent “You can't use that Rory,” “It's not fair,” “This is a national security issue,” and “Turn that off” follow-ups were no better and eventually garnered more exposure globally than if he had just patiently addressed the issue head on and given a reasonable response. The communications exec in the background encouraging this ill-advised action only compounded the situation, though granted it's difficult to know what to do when your CEO self-combusts in front of you.

Given that BlackBerry is releasing its new PlayBook tablet next week the timing is unfortunate to say the least, and it will be interesting to see who leads the media road show around that launch.

He has some previous on the defensive media performance front: check out this session from All Things D's Dive Into Mobile event last December.

Clearly, he ain't Steve Jobs. But, by the way, that's not a problem. Not every chief executive officer can do the rock star performer act, nor should they be expected to do so.

Every CEO has to do a large amount of public speaking, presenting, and media, but as we saw with BP's Tony Hayward last year they're not necessarily always the best person to front it up.

In those circumstances, perhaps other people within the organization are better suited to conduct certain events and set-piece interviews. Or, as is the case with Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg, the executive in question has to be humble – or smart enough – to recognize their limitations, take some advice, and undergo a fundamental image and media training makeover.

Laziridis is clearly a smart guy, so let's watch this space and see what happens.

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