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When Media Interviews Attack

A PR Fuel reader writes: “How should a public relations department handle requests for competing media interviews? I had a very newsworthy author earlier this year. I was fortunate that several TV news shows wanted to interview him. But they all wanted to go first.”

“After consulting with the author, we collectively decided on a live interview on a prime time news program as the author’s first appearance. But that program could not book him until later in the author’s media tour week. I told the news program’s producer that we would have to go with another program as the author’s first evening interview.

“Oh, the whining and commotion. I asked the producer to please change his program’s schedule; I could not change the author’s availability. I would end up losing two full days of interviews. So I booked other shows at the same network. I had two producers acting like screaming toddlers. It was not pretty. I tried to be up front with everyone. (These dates are the only in-studio availability, I have contacted other programs, etc.) And the producers just threatened to cancel at the last minute.

“It worked out, but two shows did cancel on me, never to be re-booked. How do you suggest handling exclusive interviews and first broadcasts? I know I will have to face this again this fall with the same producers and same author. Suggestions?”

Well, first of all, congratulations on having a client that the TV networks are clamoring after. These types of clients are a public relations rarity.

It sounds like you handled the situation properly, because you were honest and upfront. The problem, of course, is not on your end. The media world is hyper-competitive and journalists have egos, just like everyone else. In the world of television, it’s even worse.

The networks not only compete with each other, but they compete internally. ABC, CBS, and NBC each have more than one news magazine show, not to mention their morning shows. Booking agents at these shows don’t always work together and the competition is fierce to get exclusives and “firsts.”

I don’t know if you could have handled the situation any differently. The client in question had limited availability, and you couldn’t wait on the television networks to be available to suit your schedule. Unfortunately, the media is chock full of childish people who’d rather blacklist potential guests than understand the world doesn’t revolve around their particular show. Obviously there is pressure from management to bring in top-tier guests, but that’s no reason to act like a baby.

In the future, schedule media interviews as you did here. You were honest about the client’s availability, expressed interest in doing certain programs, and then told the proper people that there was a scheduling conflict. Unless your client is someone so explosive that every network will want a piece of them no matter when they get the opportunity, you’re always going to lose out on one program or another.

To help make amends for the networks or programs who are upset with you, I’d suggest letting the air clear a bit and then coming up with a peace offering. Maybe in the fall, during the next round of media interviews, you can offer the programs that felted jilted an exclusive. Or maybe just a simple note of apology explaining the situation will help smooth things over. In the heat of the moment, people say stupid things, and even if a booking agent tells you that your client is no longer welcome, management may have other ideas.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel), a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (http://www.ereleases.com), the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit: http://www.ereleases.com/prfuel/subscribe/.

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