Off-the-record interviews, brainstorming, and more

When should interviews be conducted off the record?

Interviews
When should interviews be conducted off the record?

“Experienced PR practitioners and reporters set the default switch for every interview to ‘on the record,'” says Ed Barks, president of Barks Communications. Several factors must be present to consider going off the record, he advises.

“Among them are trust, solid expertise in media relations, and a compelling reason to leave no fingerprints,” Barks explains.

Some PR pros go so far as to argue there is no such thing as off the record. “That is just plain wrong,” he asserts.

“Such a narrow viewpoint ill serves clients and internal spokespeople... [It] calls into question the sophistication of those who tout that misguided notion.”

Barks also emphasizes the importance of gaining an explicit agreement concerning ground rules. Everything in an interview remains for public consumption until the reporter says, “Yes,” when asked to speak off the record.

Brainstorming sessions
My brainstorming meetings aren't producing good results. How can I get more out of sessions?

A great PR program is based on a smart, attention-grabbing idea. But getting to that idea isn't always easy.

“A room full of people... does not guarantee a great brainstorming session,” says Bradley Daves, MD at Loving & Company. “You want to create an environment where ideas can be coaxed, shaped, and sharpened.”

The key is not to get too overwhelmed, he adds. Cap the number of brainstorm participants at eight to 10, set a time limit for your meeting, and stick to it.

“Having too many people throws off interaction and cooperation,” Daves notes. “[It] allows the loudest to rule and others to fade into the background.”

Be specific about the goal of your session, rather than just asking for some ideas. If you have several tactics to discover, host several mini-sessions.

“Understanding the real-world situation – and the project boundaries – frees people to think creatively,” Daves says.

Celebrities
How can we use celebs more effectively in a tough year?

“Celebrities and influencers still work for marketing and PR campaigns by helping to differentiate your brand and increase awareness,” says David Schwab, VP and MD at Octagon's First Call.

But remember to be smart with whom you select and how you use them. Also, consider all related expenses before the work begins, rather than as an afterthought.

“Outside of a celebrity's fee, there are numerous expenses incurred in a campaign. They range from travel and makeup to... wardrobe fees,” he explains, adding that these numbers are costly if not managed correctly.

“If addressed early in the deal, you have the chance to include these items as part of the overall celebrity budget and/or make the talent responsible for handling some of them on their own dime,” Schwab notes.

Send your questions to: toolbox@prweek.com. Please contact Beth Krietsch if you are interested in contributing to PR Toolbox or to suggest ideas for future columns.

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