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
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
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
(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.