Live interviews still king in the evolving world of digital comms

There are advantages and disadvantages to the various platforms comms pros use, but the time for debating whether or not they are legitimate venues for comment has long since passed.

Illustration via opensourceway; used under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license
Illustration via opensourceway; used under the Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license

If you ask reporters, editors, bloggers, or producers for their biggest pet peeves about the media relations process, I’m betting false starts by PR pros would be near the top of the list.

That’s when a likely well-intentioned PR professional pitches a press release, gets a call or email back from a reporter, and then can’t provide an executive for an interview from the company he or she is promoting.

It is frustrating from the journalist’s side – few story-worthy quotes are ever in a press release – and I’m guessing it is equally vexing for those pitching the story when an executive backs out of a short phone interview. It reflects badly on everyone involved: The reporter who can’t get quotes for the story; the PR pro who pitched the story without being able to provide an interview; and the company that looks like it just doesn’t care about its own campaign or announcement.

I have a better idea. It’s time for more brands to be brave. I understand as well as anyone that we live in the digital age. Comments can be provided quickly and spontaneously on Twitter, thoroughly on Facebook or Tumblr, or verbosely on Medium. There are advantages and disadvantages to each of these platforms, but the time when journalists debated whether or not they are legitimate venues for comment has long since passed. Brands should be using all of these digital platforms to get their points across, as well as others such as video, corporate websites, and influencer relations. The list goes on and on.

You can’t blame brands for going digital with media relations – the list above really only scratches the surface – and going around the media to get their message straight to consumers. Yet that doesn’t necessarily have to come at the expense of an interview.

Few communications tactics have the gravitas of a sit-down or phone interview with a reputable media outlet or prominent journalist. While riskier, the tactic also shows members of the media and the public that an executive is confident in themselves and in the product or service their company is selling. That authenticity is why Reddit’s Ask Me Anything sessions are so wildly popular. Resorting to answering questions via email has the opposite effect. 

The digital evolution of communications shouldn’t come at the expense of the live interview. For a well-prepared executive or spokesperson, the rewards outweigh the risks. 

Frank Washkuch is news editor of PRWeek. He can be contacted at frank.washkuch@prweek.com.

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