OPINION: WNEK ON ... DEALING WITH JOURNALISTS

After my experience in The Sunday Times magazine a couple of weeks ago, you might expect my advice on dealing with the press to be ’don’t do it’.

After my experience in The Sunday Times magazine a couple of weeks

ago, you might expect my advice on dealing with the press to be ’don’t

do it’.



If you and your company have a clear-cut, blue-chip and unimproveable

position, then you probably have that luxury.



If, like most of us, you genuinely believe that there are important,

differentiating things you would like to communicate about your business

and yourself, you have to seize the moment and the opportunity.



If you’re among the latter, here are some pointers:



Never confuse the benign and charming aspect or attitude of the

journalist with his or her agenda.



Never use humour or irony. It makes you a hostage to fortune.



Ask for a list of questions. Spend a day considering and writing down

your answers, then read them back.



Always have your own tape recorder running throughout any face-to-face

interview.



Failing all the above, always have a professional PR person in the room

with you throughout.



Having a professional PR person in the room with you must be great for

when the interviewer tries to put words in your mouth, which they will

do the whole time.



So when the interviewer says: ’So what you’re really saying is that

you’re a kind of primeval born-again ad commando?’ and you squirm: ’Er,

what, well, no - I ... ’, the PR person can dive in and say: ’It’s

entirely clear that Mark hasn’t got the faintest idea what you mean by

that, so please can we make sure it doesn’t find its way into the

article.’



(Not having our own PR lady - the redoubtable and brilliant Sarah

Pollard - in the room with me is something I kick myself for.)



When all is said and done, however, no matter what rules you follow,

journalists are not stupid and the real you or essence of you will come

out in some way.



My Sunday Times piece does actually capture me (as when you capture Dr

Jekyll you capture Mr Hyde). When I talk I tend to bounce off the walls

and at the very least half of what I say is gibberish. Something which

The Sunday Times piece captures very well - to my cost.



Journalists are also, by the way, decent people. Here’s an e-mail from

Caroline Scott, the writer of the life in the day of article for The

Sunday Times magazine: ’Oh dear. Can’t work out whether you are really

upset or upset because other (industry?) people have no sense of humour.

It’s a tragedy for both of us that irony sits so badly on the page.’



As for the state of our industry, for every person who lets the side

down like the scumbags who bitch to the press unnamed or try to make

capital out of others’ misfortunes or, yes, me, there will always be a

Chris Powell or a Rupert Howell whose classy and considered remarks in

last week’s Campaign suggest that advertising ain’t that bad a business

to be in.



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